The Displaced Person by Flannery O’Connor

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Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

All the characters in this story are displaced and are displacing someone else. Guizac is literally a D.P., but the other characters are also displaced, alienated from one another and from the place where they were born. As Mrs. McIntyre puts it, “Times are changing. . . . Do you know what’s happening to this world? It’s swelling up. It’s getting so full of people that only the smart thrifty energetic ones are going to survive.” Gone is the simple world of simple values; replacing it is the complex world of modern war, technology, and the victims of both.

At the end of the story, even “the smart thrifty energetic ones” do not survive, for Mr. Shortley leaves without notice for a new position, the young black farmworker departs, and the old black helper cannot work without company. Mrs. McIntyre becomes bedridden, visited only by the priest who comes not only to teach her the Catholic Church’s doctrines but also to feed the peacock, the ultimate reminder of mystery in the midst of ordinariness.