The Displaced Person
by Flannery O'Connor
The Displaced Person Theme of Language and Communication
In her essay "The Regional Writer" O'Connor states that "Unless the [writer] has gone utterly out of his mind, his aim is still communication and communication suggests talking inside a community" (source: Collected Works, 844). Her concern is obvious in "The Displaced Person," where communication is often charged with clashes over race, religion, class, and immigration. Her characters speak in a variety of rich idioms meant to display not only some of the nastiest comments ever, but also to capture through language the rhythm of her community. In "The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South" O'Connor claims that "A distinctive idiom is a powerful instrument for keeping fiction social. When one Southern character speaks, regardless of his station in life, an echo of all Southern life is heard" (source: Collected Works, 855). We'd love to hear what you think of that statement once you've explored the story.
Questions About Language and Communication
- Did any of the language in the story shock you? If so, which parts, and why did they shock you?
- What do you think of Mrs. Shortley's conversation with Astor? What about Astor's conversations with the peacock?
- Why doesn't Astor speak directly to Mrs. McIntyre when he wants her to understand something important? What are some of the indirect means he uses to communicate with her?
- What does Mrs. Shortley think about languages other than English? How do you know?
- Where do you think Father Flynn is from, based on his accent? How might you try to find the answer? Is it possible to answer this question?
- How does Mr. Shortley communicate his love for Mrs. Shortley?
- What role, if any, does news and the media play in this story?
Chew on This
Even though the Shortleys are portrayed in a mostly negative way, they provide us with positive examples of marital communication.
Mrs. McIntyre belittles her employees to keep them under her control.