The Displaced Person
by Flannery O'Connor
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
The arrival of the Guizacs.
The Guizacs come to Mrs. McIntyre's farm after fleeing their home county, Poland. Nobody is sure what to make of them and everyone sees them as foreign and different.
Mr. Guizac proves himself to be an efficient worker.
Mrs. McIntyre is thrilled with her new employee. Mr. Guizac works so fast that she can hardly count the dollar signs flashing in her eyes. This makes the other employees nervous. Afraid that Mr. Guizac's success will result in their being fired, the already present hostility and prejudice toward the Guizacs increases, mostly on the part of Mrs. Shortley.
Mrs. Shortley overhears Mrs. McIntyre tell Father Flynn that she plans to fire the Shortleys.
This complicates matters on several levels. Mrs. Shortley reacts to the situation by leaving with her family the very next day, instead of sticking around to get the month's notice Mrs. McIntyre said she would give them. The shock of having no destination literally kills Mrs. Shortley, and sets Mr. Shortley on a quest for vengeance against Mr. Guizac, whom he blames for his wife's death.
Mrs. McIntyre finds the picture of Mr. Guizac's cousin.
When Mrs. McIntyre learns that Sulk is engaged to Mr. Guizac's cousin, who is stuck in a Polish detention camp, she becomes disgusted with Mr. Guizac. When he explains that his cousin doesn't care if Sulk is black, and that her life depends on her marrying him, Mrs. McIntyre says she doesn't care, and that it's not her problem. These events are climactic because they provoke a deeper level emotional intensity in both the readers and the characters, and because they drive the rest of the plot forward in an extreme way.
Mr. Shortley returns, with a vengeance.
The climax already created a suspenseful situation – now that Mrs. McIntyre can't stand Mr. Guizac, we have no idea how things will be resolved. Mr. Shortley's return intensifies the suspense. We watch as he turns the town and the farm against the Guizacs, and we wonder how the Displaced Persons will survive in such an inhospitable environment.
Mr. Guizac's murder.
When Mr. Shortley, Mrs. McIntyre, and Sulk watch as the tractor rolls toward the unsuspecting Mr. Guizac, the story is moving toward its close. The death leads to the breakup of the mini-society of the farm. The Guizacs obviously won't be sticking around, and Sulk and Mr. Shortley leave almost immediately. Mrs. McIntyre suffers a nervous collapse and becomes bedridden.
The bedridden Mrs. McIntyre.
The story concludes with an image of the blind and speechless Mrs. McIntyre lying in bed while Father McIntyre talks to her about religion. We don't know what happens to any of the other characters, and we don't know how she feels about being a captive audience for the priest. What do you think?