A Mercy ThemeWhen considering the theme of "Slavery and Race" in A Mercy, does it seem that slavery for the main characters is not based upon race? Is it accurate to say, based upon the...

A Mercy Theme

When considering the theme of "Slavery and Race" in A Mercy, does it seem that slavery for the main characters is not based upon race?

Is it accurate to say, based upon the storyline, that each appears to be captive in a personal bondage? How so?

Asked on by sheiladale

6 Answers | Add Yours

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Gender seems to be an important focus of this book, in addition to race.  Many of the most important characters are women, and many of the most important relationships are relations between the sexes. Examining the connections between race, gender, and slavery might make for an interesting paper about this book.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I really love this little gem of a book.  The main reason is that it takes the typical story of slavery and turns it on its head, so you don't have the regular sterotypical approach.  Instead, we have a chance to look at the concept from all angles.  Things are not always what they seem!

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

One thing Morrison is doing in A Mercy is to juxtapose the kindnesses humans do for one another against the larger concept of enslavement. Slavery has been in the world throughout the expanse of human history and Morrison depicts a segment of the history of slavery in which even slaves could win recognition of their humanity and contribute to the construct of family, in which the "other" was not so violently defined, in which "personal slavery" may have been an applicable concept as developed by Florens and the blacksmith.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would agree with your statement slavery can be considered "a personal bondage." It is where the phrase "a slave to...", you fill in the blank. People can be a slave to a multitude of hings, themselves predominately.

As for the story, slavery does not solely exist for blacks and their race. Morrison shows this by including Sorrow. Sorrow is of mixed race and is not considered black. Therefore, race does not seem to be the overt circumstance which deems one to be a slave.

sheiladale's profile pic

sheiladale | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I agree, gender is huge, throughout. The fact that Rebekka was subject to sale the farm after Jacobs death attests to this, as well. I remember reading that she would need to remarry or sale, meaning there was no way a woman could continue what he had established without a male. Enter Gone With The Wind and Scarlet O'hare. Right?

sheiladale's profile pic

sheiladale | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

It was quite common for mixed race individuals to be slaves; however, more importantly there are others in the household who are not Black, but they are slaves. The two White indentured servants are definitely slaves and so is Lina, yet she is Native American. This 1690 setting definitely depicts a time prior to slavery involving racism.  All members of the household, though considered slaves (who could be bought and sold) were equal regardless of color.

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