Toni Morrison is an eminent writer of the United States. Being an African American, she reveals the century-long problem of racism that comes from the history of early America and slavery, in particular. Her manner of writing puts special emphasis on the problem of how to create a right attitude between the major and minor societal groups. Being in a constant search of justice and truth of what makes America so scattered, Morrison is quite delicate in describing her characters. Her novel A Mercy, which was written in 2008, sheds light on the problem of slavery and its consequences. Moreover, it gives another opportunity for a reader to judge upon the European expansion of the American territory and, more importantly, an unjust import of African slaves, who were destined to get through a host of hardships and tortures as well.
The main characters of the novel are Jacob Vaark, an owner of a farm in Virginia, Rebekka, his young wife from England, Florens, a Black slave girl working as a servant at the Vaark’s farmstead, Lina, a Native American servant at the farm whose tribe was wiped out, and Sorrow, a daughter of a captain who died in the shipwreck. Among all of them, Florens is the protagonist of the novel. The cruelty of the American invasion and enslavement, which did not coincide with the preliminary search of freedom among the first settlers, is outlined as the main antagonist throughout the novel. Senor D’Ortega is, obviously, one of them. It is a power which stands against Vaark’s tries to protect all four women while he is suffering from the smallpox plague.
The narrator of the whole story, Florens, is the main character. Her feelings and worries about everything that happens at the farm are well interrelated with the racial component, as all four women living at Vaark’s mansion are of different races. Furthermore, the plot of the story is about Jacob Vaark’s ideas to move to America with a hope to live better and grow rich. At some period, he feels a need of money and moves to Maryland to Senor D’Ortega to contract a debt. However, instead of money the latter suggested a slave, Florens, who joined the Vaark’s farm. This very moment of the story is “a mercy” itself, as Vaark just took her with no further idea of enslaving the girl but keeping her as a servant in the mansion. When Jacob is ill with smallpox, it threatens Rebekka, and Florens, as the main character, is in search of remedy for her Mistress. It was a brave deed by Florens as she felt love and care at the Vaark’s farm which she had never felt and imagined before.
Character development in the story reveals the co-existence of people belonging to different races for the sake of their survival. All the characters are important to each other. Jacob Vaark is a unique person to Florens and others as he saves their lives and gives them a mere extent of freedom within the mansion. The idea of mutual understanding and devotion is especially underlined by Morrison so that to pay attention to what was lost in the early America and how it affects the American society at the present time.
Thus, the main significance regarding the novel is its simplicity in identifying what makes current “melting pot” or “salad bowl” so strong and even stronger, i.e. racial tolerance and mutual understanding among the individuals for the sake of strengthening national ideals and freedoms throughout the country. Morrison seeks to highlight this idea in all of her novels including A Mercy. She also describes a significant role of a woman in sorting social issues out.