The Displaced Person by Flannery O’Connor

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Who is offered the moment of grace in "The Displaced Person" and does he/she accept it? (Are there any passages that support this contention that the grace is accepted?)

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Throughout Flannery O'Connor's stories, the symbolic peacock strolls with its resplendent tail containing the eyes of God. As an image of immortality, this bird figures strongly in the narrative of "The Displaced Person." In fact, it is by means of some of the characters' reactions to the peacocks that O'Connor suggests their moral levels in this Catholic faith-based short story.

  • Mrs. Shortley, the sanctimonious Southern Fundamentalist who personifies all the bigotry of her religious and racial culture, perceives the peacocks as annoyances and merely "more to feed." In accord with her narrow selfishness, she perceives the arrival of the Polish immigrant farmworker, the "Displaced Person," as an intrusion into her ordered world in which she has her position established. As "another to feed," Mr. Guizac, whose name sounds like "Gobblehook" to her, is an interloper into her world. As she looks at the priest who has brought them, Mrs. Shortley is reminded that "these people did not have an advanced religion" because it had not been reformed as has her Calvinistic faith. As she thinks this, the peacock swings around and cocks its head at her. The priest comments upon its beauty, asking when it raises its tail, an act he later calls the "Transfiguration" (when the presence of Christ is made into the host at mass), but Mrs. Shortley is unimpressed.  Later, she fulfills the lines of "Judge not lest he be judged" as she dies.
  • Mr. Shortley, who has let his wife do the thinking, then becomes much like her as he talks more and maligns Mr. Guizac. He later becomes complicit with Sulk and Mrs. McIntyre as they...

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