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The Displaced Person

The Displaced Person

by Flannery O'Connor

Analysis: Narrator Point of View

Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

Third Person (Limited Omniscient)

Since the title of the story is "The Displaced Person" we might expect to get the story from the point of view of Mr. Guizac, the named Displaced Person. Surprisingly, this doesn't happen. In Section 1 the third-person narrator describes things almost entirely from Mrs. Shortley's point of view. Mrs. Shortley's point of view is a rather nasty one, but she is also a prophet and a visionary.

In Sections 2 and 3 we see things mostly through Mrs. McIntyre's eyes. We occasionally encounter the points of view of Father Flynn and Mr. Shortley. As with Mrs. Shortley, Mrs. McIntyre's point of view is disturbing. Unlike with Mrs. Shortley, there is no mysticism to trip us up. Mrs. Shortley is obsessed by one thing: money. But, it seems that her prejudices are even stronger than her love of money. Even though her financial success is ensured so long as she keeps Mr. Guizac on staff, she decides to get rid of him when she learns that he is trying to pair his white cousin with Sulk, a black employee on her farm.

Because Mr. Guizac's point of view is omitted, we naturally focus on how he is seen, rather than how he sees. Because the Shortleys and Mrs. McIntyre see him in a way that most modern readers would find offensive (as either a worker to be exploited or a dangerous, "foreign" influence), we might find ourselves mentally defending him at every turn. So, O'Connor has managed to create an entirely sympathetic character by omitting his point of view from the story. We think that's pretty clever.

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