“The Displaced Person” Does Some Displacing

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From Flannery O’Connor’s “The Displaced Person”:

“’Well,’ Mr. Shortley said, ‘if I was going to travel again, it would be to either China of Africa.  You go to either of them two places and you can tell right away what the difference is between you and them.  You go to these other places and the only way you can tell is if they say something.  And then you can’t always tell because about half of them know the English language.  That’s where we make our mistake,’ he said, ‘—learning all them people onto English.  There’d be a heap less trouble if everybody only knew his own language.  My wife said knowing two languages was like having eyes in the back of your head.  You couldn’t put nothing over on her’” (O’Connor 248).

Ahhh!  The thoughts of these characters in this story are so ridiculous!  Talk about being xenophobic!  I wonder if O’Connor was basing her characters upon actual people’s mentalities.  It is hard for me to imagine that anyone could actually think what Mr. Shortley says, but I suppose there are crazy people out there (of course such thought could have been more prevalent when O’Connor wrote some 50 years ago too).  However, if O’Connor is characterizing how people actually though, no wonder the Holocaust or other genocides took/take place.  It is just absurd for Mr.Shortley to suggest keeping the English language from others.  How does he expect to communicate with other people?  I guess he follows the philosophy of isolationism (promoted at one point by Japan, or closer to home, George Washington).  He seems to believe other countries should stay away from us, and we should stay away from them, and we should all live in ignorance.  However, I doubt that Mr. Shortley would have had such a problem with Mr. Guizac ,if he had not been so successful in replacing him.  Ironically, “the displaced person” ends up displacing Mr. Shortley.    

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