Study Guide

The Displaced Person Visions of America

By Flannery O'Connor

Visions of America

The peacock stopped just behind her, his tail – glittering green-gold in the sunlight – lifted just enough to so that it would not touch the ground. (1.2)

As we discuss in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory," O'Connor says the peacock is a symbol of the Catholic Church. Is it also a symbol of America?

The fact is Mr. Shortley did have a second job on the side and that, in a free country […]was none of Mrs. McIntyre's business. (1.67)

Mr. Shortley's second job is making whiskey, which is probably illegal to sell. He might be doing this for fun, but he also might be doing this to make ends meet. Like Sulk, the Shortleys have to supplement their salaries. This is an example of the way poverty can impinge on American freedom.

They tied the two iron beds to the top of the car and the two rocking chairs inside the beds and rolled the two mattresses up between the rocking chairs. (1.123)

Again we are given a vision of poverty in America. The relative ease with which Mrs. Shortley accomplishes this packing miracle suggests that she has done this before. She and her family are constantly one step away from homeless.

He was in the family graveyard, a little space fenced in the middle of the back cornfield, with his mother and father and grandfather and three great aunts and two infant cousins. (2.35)

The Judge is the "he" in question. Both Mrs. McIntyre and Astor seem to approve of the Judge, and we know he loved peacocks. The family graveyard provides an interesting vision of America.

Mrs. McIntyre found that everybody in town knew Mr. Shortley's version of her business and that everyone was critical of her conduct. She began to understand that she had a moral obligation to fire the Pole […]. (3.59)

This passage provides a sinister vision of small town life, where personal morality is constantly being adapted to meet popular opinion. Of course this is only one side of the story. O'Connor herself represents the flip side of that.

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