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April 03, 2006

Flashing (of) the bird

O'Connor, '''The Displaced Person'' -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“’What a beauty-ful birdrrrd!’ the priest murmured. ‘Another mouth to feed,’ Mrs. McIntyre said, glancing in the peafowl’s direction.
‘And when does he raise his splendid tail?’ asked the priest.
‘Just when it suits him,’ she said ‘There used to be twenty or thirty of those things on the place but I’ve let them die off. I don’t like to hear them scream in the middle of the night.’
So beauty-ful,’ the priest said. ‘A tail full of suns,’”

It occurred to me the peacock, with its tail full of suns, or eyes may serve as a counterpart to the Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, objectively observing all that goes on at the farm.

Gradually increasing prejudice and distrust, (like a communicable disease) spreads from Mrs. Shortley to the others on the farm. This prejudice leads her to jump to incorrect conclusions about Mr. Guizac and her ideas infect her husband and ultimately Mrs. McIntyre. In this case, O’Connor makes a white European the target of the racism, by other whites.

This relationship could probably be examined from a moral/intellectual viewpoint: what is the message and how can its knowledge improve our lives? Also a topical/historical perspective: and I think of Jason here, who regularly urges us not to lose sight that these stories were written in a different era.

When something is displaced, as water is by a boat, one object takes the space of another. So Mr. Guizac was displaced, but he in turn through his own hard work displaces Mr. Shortley as the most useful hired hand.

Mrs. McIntyre is fond of telling everyone how tough she’s had it, but in this story she actually meets the Guizacs who we can tell have had a rougher time, so rough in fact that Mr. Guizac’s sister is willing to marry the black farmhand in order to escape war-torn Europe, an event that shocks Mrs. McIntyre. She, who once called Mr. Guizac her salvation, says he disrupts the balance of the farm. But Guizac actually maintains the balance: he works hard and efficiently, so Mrs. McIntyre can actually save money. It is interesting that after he dies, the balance is disrupted and everything unravels.

Posted by MattHampton at April 3, 2006 02:11 AM


Excellent point of view, however the word "displaced" in the story means from another place or not in the same country they were born. I believe that Mrs. Shortley realized that her husband did not work hard and that she did feel threatened by the "Displaced" worker as they all did. I had mixed emontions reading this chapter and thought that the ending was expected.

Posted by: LisaRandolph at April 3, 2006 10:27 AM

I never really looked into the bird. I guess i read it and looked over it never thinking anything more about it. That is kind of a creepy thing knowing that the bird is watching evything that is happening, and those eyes had to be enough to scare the living daylights out of you, if you ran into him.

Posted by: Melissa Lupari at April 3, 2006 04:44 PM

And how rapidly everything does unravel, which takes no more than 1 paragraph in a 54 page story.

Posted by: Brenda Christeleit at April 3, 2006 05:14 PM

I have wondered about O'Connor's use of this secondary woman in several of the stories. A seeming friend to the main female character and often a servant of some type, it appears that the negativity is brought into the stories by this type of character and does indeed spread.

Posted by: Jennifer DiFulvio at April 3, 2006 08:46 PM

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