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We're all displaced people

O'Connor, "The Displaced Person" -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"'This is my place,' she said angrily. 'All of you are extra. Each and every one of you are extra!'"

This quote is just devastating. It really illustrates why nobody in this story (or in this country) could get along. Mrs. McIntyre, despite the fact that she needs people to work on her farm, can't seem to get along with anyone who comes to work for her. The Shortleys didn't work as fast as Mr. Guizac, so she fired them. But then, although Mr. Guizac was a diligent, hard worker, she couldn't work past her racism and fear of interracial marriage to let him stay on the farm. She can only tolerate the black people working on her farm as long as they keep in their place. However, by the end of the story she realizes that keeping people separated and "displaced" in this way makes everything fall apart, and destroys lives. It's really a metaphor for the whole country.
White Christian people at this time felt that the U.S. was really their country, and African-Americans or immigrants or Jewish people were displaced from somewhere else. However, the U.S. is a country of immigrants. Mrs. McIntyre's Irish name attests to that. So I really think this story is a powerful illustration of the damage racism and oppression of certain groups of people can do to a civilization.

Comments (3)

Margaret Jones:

I agree with you Matt. And I never even picked up on Mrs. McIntyre being of Irish herritage until you just pointed it out. It was sad to see how racism really did bring down everyone's life within the story.

Chera Pupi:

I was thinking that all along Matt. I've seen this many times in literature. A perfect example and one that I addressed last semester, is Little Women. In it, other races and nationalities are depicted as inferior. Laurie's half Italian and his family is ashamed of his dark hair and eyes. The German family down the street is poor. The Irish people are all poor. Aunt March's French maid is forced to change her name to sound more "American." I thought the same thing when reading that as I did while reading this; where do people think they came from? How quickly they forget their roots.For the characters to be so unsympathetic to foreigners truly proves this. I guess it just bothers me so much because my heritage is such a huge part of who I am.


I thought it was interesting, along the same lines, how Mrs. Shortley was ready to throw the blacks out when the white Guizacs came, then when the Guizacs began to be a threat she immediately wanted to defend the negros, and then when she was cast out and "displaced" it literally killed her. While they thought of themselves as better than the Guizacs Mrs. Shortley couldn't survive even a portion of what they'd gone through. I suppose it just goes to show that no race is really stronger than any other.

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