The Displaced Person Theme of Racism
Open a random page of "The Displaced Person" and you'll probably find a racial slur or a racist comment. The story includes two black characters, Astor and Sulk, who work on a white woman's farm. As black employees on Mrs. McIntyre's farm they are the recipients of some awful words and attitudes. When Mrs. McIntyre learns that Sulk is considering entering into an interracial marriage (illegal in Southern states at that time) all sorts of problems occur. By highlighting racial tensions in the southern US during or just after World War II, we are forced to consider our own racial attitudes.
Questions About Racism
- Did you find the strong racial language in this story hard to read? What is the effect on the reader of this kind of language?
- Does the idea of interracial marriage disturb Mrs. McIntyre? If not, why does she become so disgusted with Mrs. Guizac? (This one is tricky so make sure you use the text to support your position.)
- Why does Mrs. Shortley switch from wanting the black employees to be fired, to wanting Mr. Guizac to get the axe? What is your evidence?
- How is Astor treated by Mr. Guizac? What about Sulk? Is Mr. Guizac racist?
Chew on This
Father Flynn's nonracial speech presents a refreshing contrast to the racially charged speech of the Shortleys and Mrs. McIntyre.