A Mercy

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The Reverend Father Character Analysis

The Reverend Father is the Catholic priest who lives in D’Ortega’s parish in Maryland. The Reverend Father takes Florens and her family under his wing: helping them, preaching the Catholic faith to them, and secretly teaching them to read. He delivers Florens to the Vaarks’ farm on a boat before returning to Maryland.

The Reverend Father Quotes in A Mercy

The A Mercy quotes below are all either spoken by The Reverend Father or refer to The Reverend Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of A Mercy published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes

A woman comes to me and says stand up. I do and she takes my cloak from my shoulders. Then my wooden shoes. She walks away. Reverend Father turns a pale red color when he returns and learns what happens…Finally he takes rags, strips of sailcloth lying about and wraps my feet. Now I am knowing that unlike with Senhor, priests are unlove here. A sailor spits into the sea when Reverend Father asks him for help. Reverend Father is the only kind man I ever see.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), The Reverend Father
Related Symbols: Florens’s Shoes
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Florens narrates this quote as she and the Reverend set sail on a ferry for the Vaark farm. Florens has just been sold to Jacob and is heading to New England from Maryland, where Florens was raised Catholic, to start her new life.

In Catholic Maryland, priests are highly respected and loved. Florens loves the Reverend Father, who does everything he can to help Florens’s mother and who secretly taught Florens and her family to read. However, on the ship to New England, Florens notices that, unlike in Maryland, no one treats the Reverend with reverence. On the contrary, a woman steals from Florens (her shoes, which often act as markers of her current living situation) despite his escort and a sailor spits at him, showing deep disrespect.

These interactions show how starkly different the attitude toward Catholicism is outside of Maryland at this point in American history. In most of the colonies, Protestantism was the dominant religion, and religious tolerance was scarce—as the woman and the sailor actively disrespect the Reverend. Not only does this quote show that religion is a source of contention in the colonies, but it also highlights how prejudices against people of other religions can mean being cruel to genuinely kind and good people. The Reverend is one of the few examples of highly religious people in the book who actively practice good morals in accordance with their faith.

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The Reverend Father Character Timeline in A Mercy

The timeline below shows where the character The Reverend Father appears in A Mercy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...how many seasons have passed, Florens is now sixteen. Florens has been baptized, and her Reverend at the plantation in Maryland taught her to read and write every week in secret... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Florens, though, has forgotten most of what she learned from the Reverend. Florens likes to talk and enjoys conversation with Lina, Sorrow, and the Blacksmith. When she... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
The Reverend took Florens to a ferry to deliver her to Jacob’s farm. During the boat ride,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...fits into none of those categories. She thinks she should do communion, as per the Reverend’s instructions, but there is no communion in the woods. Rebekka, meanwhile, being nonreligious, would have... (full context)
Chapter 12
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...catechism has nothing in it against slavery and its evils. Florens’s mother hoped that the Reverend teaching them to read would help them. The Reverend taught them to read because he... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
When D’Ortega began sexually abusing her, Florens’s mother tried to tell the Reverend, but he did not believe her and only told her to pray. Florens’s mother tried... (full context)