“Never the Right Food”

The Physical and Material Worlds in John Updike’s Rabbit, Run and Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood

in Religion and the Arts
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Flannery O’Connor’s first novel, Wise Blood, and John Updike’s second, Rabbit, Run, both deal with the convergences and divergences of the physical and material worlds. Both feature characters who are driven by instinctual longings for or away from divinity, and both feature complicated relationships between their characters and the gods they seek and flee. But the conclusions drawn by these two novels are contradictory. O’Connor’s Hazel Motes, in his desperate attempt to escape from God’s call, ends up performing a painful bodily penance and presumably finds God present in his suffering. Updike’s Harry Angstrom, on the other hand, does his best to find God’s active presence in the world but ends up alienated from that presence, subsumed in the physical world in which he seeks it. This paper seeks an answer for this divergence in endings.

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