Toni Morrison’s A Mercy takes place in the late seventeenth century in the New World. The characters include slave owners, the D’Ortegas and the Vaarks; two female slaves, Florens, who is black, and Lina, who is Native American; two indentured servants, Willard and Scully; a “mongrelized” female foundling, Sorrow; and an unnamed free African blacksmith. The story is told primarily through the first-person narrative of Florens; some interspersed sections are narrated by an unknown third person who provides the thoughts and feelings of other characters in the novel.
Several aspects of the narrative make it challenging to sort out setting, events, and characters, but those challenges also contribute to A Mercy's rich literary and historical qualities. For example, only one date—1690—is provided as the “present time” of the story. The settings too are spare: first there is “Mary’s Land,” and then there is somewhere in a "northern colony." These settings and other plot elements offer the reader a glimpse into the beginnings of religious intolerance in the New World, the “popishness” of Maryland, and the threat of witchcraft. The settings also allow the reader to see the beauty and promise of the New World, before it is tamed and ruined, from the...
(The entire section is 533 words.)