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What is the significance of the title A Mercy in understanding the novel?

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leev | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 28, 2012 at 7:15 AM via web

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What is the significance of the title A Mercy in understanding the novel?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:50 PM (Answer #1)

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The novel contains many examples of various mercies that are shown towards the characters. There is first and foremost the mercy that results in Florens being brought to the Vaark household which is so important to the novel. However, there are also many different examples of more minor, quiet mercies that permeate throughout the story.

Vaark for example shows great mercy when he takes in those who are outcasts in society and not wanted anywhere else. This is echoed by the blacksmith taking in an unwanted child. Lina, through her "adoption" of Florens and the way that she becomes a substitute mother to her, shows mercy too. Most significantly, the title of the story is used at the end of the novel, when the mother of Florens tells her that she was not abandoned but saved, Morrison deliberately specifies that what Florens survived not through an act of God or a miracle but through the mercy of a human. She writes it was not:

...a miracle. Bestowed by God. It was a mercy. Offered by a human.

Florens is saved as a result of mercy, and as a result, this novel is a testament to the power and strength of mercy and how it can be a force for good in this world.

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