The Displaced Person by Flannery O’Connor

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Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Because O’Connor is interested in the way in which people see, she uses various strategies and images related to the idea of vision. In the opening scene, Mrs. Shortley is blind to the beauty of nature and the peacock and notes the arrival of strangers through her narrow, bigoted vision. This tunnel vision is replaced by another kind of seeing, one so monumental as to be overwhelming, leading her to prophesy and then to succumb to her own prophecy of destruction.

Mrs. McIntyre’s vision is pragmatic, not prophetic, for she sees the universe in practical, useful terms. When she comes to see that the Pole is an unfathomable mystery, she decides that he is the devil she does not know, and she is compelled to rid herself of that unknown quantity.

Contrasting with Mrs. McIntyre’s pragmatic vision is Father Flynn’s spiritual gaze. He sees everything and everyone as a reflection of the divine: The peacock, for example, is not a beautiful creature on the farm; it is a symbol of Christ and a reminder of the Transfiguration. Mrs. McIntyre on her deathbed is not a woman seeking human comfort; she is a potential convert to the Church. In O’Connor’s fiction, what one sees is not always what one gets, but what one sees is indeed what one is.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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