Study Guide

The Displaced Person Language and Communication

By Flannery O'Connor

Language and Communication

"You better get into that barn and help Mr. Shortley. What do you reckon she pays you for?" (1.34)

Mrs. McIntyre uses her speech to exert authority over Astor. Because she is white, he can't meet her spiteful words without reprisal, even if he wanted to. He has to hint around politely to resist her.

Mrs. Shortley could listen to all this calmly because she knew that if Mrs. McIntyre considered her trash, they wouldn't have talked about trashy people together. (1. 56)

Mrs. Shortley doesn't realize that, while Mrs. McIntyre doesn't consider her as trashy as her predecessors, she is still hinting that she considers Mrs. Shortley trash, and is using her intimations to make her nervous and insecure.

She began to imagine a war or words, to see the Polish and English words coming at each other […]. She saw the Polish words flinging mud on the clean English words until everything was equally dirty. (1.102)

We still hear things like this today, though this kind of rhetoric was probably more blatant during World War II.

"Prophecy!" (1.104)

This is one of the most ambiguous moments in the story. The figure Mrs. Shortley sees in her vision might be telling her to prophecy or telling her that it is a prophecy. What do you think? What are some other ways to read this moment?

Or occasionally he spoke with the peacock. (2.33)

Through Mrs. McIntyre's memory of Astor's conversation with the peacock we learn that there used to be twenty of the birds. This also demonstrates the creative ways that Astor uses to communicate his displeasure to Mrs. McIntyre, and the creative ways that O'Connor uses to provide information to the reader.

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