One Book, One Chicago Fall 2010
- All of the characters on the Vaark farm are, in their own way, orphans. What was Morrison’s point, do you think, in making that explicit parallel between them all?
- Why is Lina so distrustful of the blacksmith, a free black man? Is she correct in her suspicion or is his free status what starts the wheels in motion for the tragedy that befalls the group?
- Sorrow becomes “Complete” after the birth of her child. Discuss the role of motherhood in these characters’ lives, and how it affects their decisions.
- Sorrow believes that her first child may have been alive when Lina placed it into the river. Could this be true? What are the implications? Also discuss why Lina distrusts and ostracizes Sorrow, and if she is justified.
- Florens tries to interpret “signs” from the natural world all around her. From where does she develop these superstitious beliefs? How do they serve her in navigating the colonial world and her young adulthood?
- What does the blacksmith mean, that Florens has “become” a slave? What do you think of the free blacksmith and his treatment of the 16-year-old Florens?
- Thinking about all of the characters of A Mercy and the time and place in which they live—the early American wilderness—what drives them most? Economics? Love? Duty? Faith? Survival?
- Discuss the role that religion plays in the lives of these characters, and how that role reflects the larger importance of organized religion in colonial America.
- What is the “mercy” to which “a minha mãe” alludes in the last chapter? Is there a lesson in her final exclamation, that “to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing”?
- In the end, is Florens better off with Sir, rather than staying with her mother and Senhor? What did Florens’ mother fear when she was faced with the options of keeping her in Maryland or sending her with Jacob Vaark? Or does she still lose dominion over herself, as her mother feared?