Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
THE DISPLACED PERSON
PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Mrs. Shortley climbs a hill, with a peacock following her, and watches as a black car pulls up to Mrs. McIntyre's house. Astor and Sulk watch, too, from behind a tree, but they don't see Mrs. Shortley watching them.
An old priest gets out of the car, and then a family: a woman and two children (a boy and a girl), and a man with a sway-back. He's the Displaced Person they've all been hearing about, a Polish refuge, and Mrs. McIntyre is hiring him. Only the boy speaks any English, and she watches him translate. She and Mrs. McIntyre have been calling this family the Gobblehooks, being unable to pronounce the name. The two women have been fixing up one of the farm shacks for the family to live in. Mrs. McIntyre has said they will have to make do with what little she can give them.
Mrs. Shortly wonders if these new people know about anything regular, like colors--can they recognize colors? She's seen newsreels of the war, of all the bodies over in Europe, where the Gobblehooks come from: all twisted and stacked like wood. They were not very advanced over there, not like here. If they did those things over there, whose to say they wouldn't come here and do the same thing?
Mrs. Shortley moves forward and Mrs. McIntyre introduces her and asks where Mr. Shortly is. Mrs. Shortley says he doesn't have time to rest or visit. Mrs. McIntyre calls them the "Guizacs" now. Can't put anything over on her! Mrs. Shortley points out Astor and Sulk, doing nothing in the bushes, watching. She mentally compared the Guizac children to her own: she had a son at bible school, and he wouldn't be piling up any bodies. No telling what these Poles believed in.
The priest catches sight of the peacock, and exclaims that he is the most beautiful bird he's ever seen, with suns in his tail! Mrs. McIntyre thinks he's daffy--the priest looks like an amazed little boy. The priest drives the Guizacs to their new shack-house, and Mrs. Shortley finds Astor and Sulk behind the tree and asks them what they think. They'd never heard of the Displaced Person, and want to know what the word 'displaced' means. Mrs. Shortley explains that it means they have nowhere to be. Astor asserts that they are here, and that's someplace. Mrs. Shortley thinks Negroes are daft. She tells them to get to work or they will be replaced by people like the Guizacs.
Then she goes into the barn to tell her husband about the new people--he's smoking, which Mrs. McIntyre doesn't allow. Mr. Shortley is a veteran. They agree that Negroes would be better than those shifty Europeans.
Three weeks later Mr. Guizac has done so much work, and accomplished so many tasks, that Mrs. McIntyre is enthralled. Mr. Guizac even catches Sulk stealing a turkey and turns him into Mrs. McIntyre--she tells him that Negroes are just like that. He is puzzled that she doesn't seem to care much about the theft.
Mrs. McIntyre is glad to have a real worker at last. She tells Mrs. Shortley that she is tired of white trash who don't do the work, and that the Displaced Person is her salvation. Mrs. Shortley doesn't say much, but she hints that the Guizacs are from the devil, and she won't say any more. Not that she's religious. But she has plenty to think about. She tells Mrs. McIntyre that those people are going to want more money for all that hard work. Mrs. McIntyre says they are worth it. Then she asks after Mr. Shortley, who has been sick. Mr. Guizac has been doing his work, too.
Mr. Shortley, truthfully, has another job: he runs a still. Mrs. McIntyre doesn't know this, but Mrs. Shortley wonders if the Pole has found the still and will tell Mrs. McIntyre. She tells Mrs. McIntyre that no one works as hard as Mr. Shortley. Every time she looks at Mr. Guizac, she sees all those stacked bodies, that evil.
She then tells the Negroes that they better watch out or they will be surely be replaced. After all, Mrs. McIntyre replaced the mules with machines. Astor tells Sulk not to worry, that they are too low to be replaced. Then Mrs. Shortley, at night in bed, tries to tell her husband that Mr. Guizac is evil, that all those European people needed the American's help and now they want to come over here and replace the Negroes and she's going to stand up for the Negroes. Her husband just wants to sleep, and pretends to ignore her. Mr. Guizac didn't fool her, shaking the Negroes' hands like normal people. She would not let that priest displace the Negroes with Guizacs.
Mrs. Shortley found out what the Displaced Person was up to with the Negroes, but she wasn't going to tell Mrs. McIntyre. Even her husband could hardly believe it. She thought it was the priest's doing, and she vowed to keep her eye on him She started reading her bible, and believed that it was up to strong people like her to make sure that right prevailed. The priest would come and gawk at that peacock like an idiot, carry feathers away like a bouquet. He was leading the whores of Europe to the cleanliness of America. One day she had a vision, a great throbbing sun in the sky, and heard the word "Prophesy." The children of wicked nations would be butchered. Then she walked straight to the house and found the priest there--she hid behind some boards and listened to him talk to Mrs. McIntyre about the Guizacs, and money. Mrs. McIntyre tells the priest that she plans to let the Shortleys go!
Well! Mrs. Shortley marched straight to her house and started packing--she wouldn't wait for her husband to be fired! He comes in and perceives the situation immediately, and they pack all night, and the loaded car takes off at dawn, all the Shortleys and their stuff crammed inside and on top. As they drive off, they drive by the Negroes heading to the barn for morning milking, and they think that Mrs. McIntyre is going to get a rude surprise.
After a bit, Mr. Shortley stops the car and asks where they are going. Where? asks Mrs. Shortley. Where? She begins banging around the front seat, in some sort of fit. She grabs things, and rolls, and then goes still--looking blankly at the landscape of her true country.