Peacocks, Peacocks, and More Peacocks

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Flannery O'Connor's short story "The Displaced Person," she constantly refers to the peacocks that Mrs. McIntyre has at her house.  When I read this story, I thought, "Why all the references to peacocks and the colors of peacocks?"  These references are obvious even on a brief perusal of the text.  Here is just one example of the references to peacocks: "The peacock stopped just behind her, his tail--glittering green-gold and blue in the sunlight--lifted just enough so that it would not touch the ground" (O'Connor 196).  I tried to figure out what this symbol could mean, but I was having trouble, so I looked up the meaning of peacocks.  It turns out that peacocks actually have significance in the Christian orders.  The "eyes" on the peacock's tail can symbolize the all seeing eyes of God.  The peacock is also a symbol of immortality.  I found this information about peacocks at this site.  After reading this, I could see that perhaps O'Connor is using this symbol in this manner in the story.  The peacock's tail is often lifted at points where it would make sense that God would be watching the characters.  Also, the priest is very attracted to the peacock and often feeds and pets it.  Even the very last sentence in the story makes a reference to the peacock and how the priest would go there to feed the peacock and to discuss religion with Mrs. McIntyre, so this theme of immortality and the all seeing eye of God is a very important part of the story.

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Maddie Gillespie said:

It's awesome that you found another site that actually explained the references to peacocks! I mean, I always thought that they were ornery birds who were only pretty to look at, sometimes. Anyways, your observation after the subsequent explanation was brilliant. The eyes on the peacocks tail representing the eyes of God, all-seeing. That's a concept that can be easily seen once explained. This fact only goes to show another facet of religion in O'Connor's short stories. Perhaps if Mrs. McIntyre had a bit more faith involved in her life as opposed to just looking after what earned her money, she wouldn't have ended up as she did. Then again, that's neither here nor there. I have to write though, the Church doctrines function as basic rules that could make a lot of people's lives easier if they all but tried to follow them...maybe. Great job on the blog!

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