A Mercy

A Mercy Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Chapter 6 is told in limited third-person narrative from Rebekka’s perspective. The chapter opens with Rebekka in her sickbed, wondering whether Florens will make it to the Blacksmith safely. Her feverish thoughts jump to Florens as a child, silent until Lina replaced her old shoes from her life in Maryland with the pair that Lina made for her.
As the narrator takes up Rebekka’s third-person perspective, the narrative becomes even more unreliable, because Rebekka’s fever gives her spiritual hallucinations and makes her think in religious terms.
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Rebekka thinks about her physical discomfort, which only goes away when she is unconscious. Lina attends to her, conducting native healing rituals. Rebekka, meanwhile, hallucinates people standing over her bed. Many of these faces, like her daughter’s, are imaginary. Lina’s, however, is real, and Rebekka suddenly recognizes her as her friend.
Lina tries native healing rituals on Rebekka, showing again how the Vaark household, and 17th-century America in general, is a mix of different religious beliefs and possibilities.
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Rebekka rambles to Lina, her mind returning to her transatlantic voyage. Rebekka remembers that, upon finally landing in North America, she was surprised by how much she liked Jacob when she finally met him. Rebekka’s father, who was ready to be rid of her and the economic burden she imposed on him, sent Rebekka to marry Jacob after he heard from a crewman that a man abroad was looking for a wife.
As Rebekka thinks about her transatlantic voyage and the reasons behind it, it becomes clear that, although Rebekka is a free, unindentured, middle class white European woman, she was still sold for profit by her father— if not literally, then at least functionally.
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Rebekka’s mother, meanwhile, objected to what she saw as the “sale” (Rebekka’s father received “reimbursement” for Rebekka’s care) of her daughter because Rebekka’s new fiancé was not religious. Rebekka’s parents were fervently religious but totally unloving towards her and their other children. This gave Rebekka a fraught relationship with religion, as Rebekka feels little genuine religious faith, but plenty of guilt for her shallow belief.
Rebekka’s parents serve as one of many examples in the book of people who are religious but morally corrupt and hateful. This affects Rebekka’s own views of religion, making her only tepidly faithful. Moreover, and unlike so many other representations of motherhood in the book, Rebekka’s mother is unloving towards her daughter.
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Before Rebekka left, her mother warned her of the dangers of native people, who she described as “savages.” As a result, when Rebekka first met Lina, she bolted her door at night and kept far away from her. However, as Lina has already described, they eventually became close friends through shared chores. When Rebekka watched Lina handle her first child tenderly, Rebekka felt ashamed of how she prejudged her.
Rebekka’s mother’s warning to beware “savages” caused her to avoid Lina. This shows how racist prejudice pervades European worldviews in 17th-century Europe and America. Ironically, Lina, a “savage,” is kinder and more loving to Rebekka and her children than Rebekka’s mother ever was.
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Rebekka, in bed, revisits memories of the first hanging she attended. She remembers being two years old, and thinks that she would have been frightened if the crowd had not been so gleeful. Later, Rebekka attended the drawing and quartering of a Fifth Monarchist (a group of religious nonconformists persecuted in the 17th century), which her family enjoyed, but which gave her lifelong nightmares.
Not only is Lina not the “savage” that Rebekka’s mother warned her against, but this passage reveals Rebekka’s parents’ true “savagery”—as she describes how they love watching the executions of religious separatist groups who do not share the same faith as them.
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The city that Rebekka grew up in was dangerous, so the dangers of the new world did not turn Rebekka off. Compared to her childhood in England, North America was not especially violent. Rebekka feels that news of battles between colonists and natives seems distant from her life.
Again, Morrison ironically shows how the ideas of “savagery” that pervade European understandings of the colonies are misguided. On the other hand, majority-white England is extremely violent.
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Rebekka enjoys the sweet, clean smell of the air in America, so unlike the rancid city air in England. She also likes the plentiful wood to burn in the winter, thinking sadly of her siblings freezing in England. Rebekka finds the American countryside is preferable to the busy, dirty London streets.
Meanwhile, Rebekka’s preference for the American countryside plays into her and Jacob’s dream of an American pastoral, removed from the corruption and pollution of European city life.
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Rebekka only casually attends the local meetinghouse for services. Unlike what her parents told her, the Anabaptists in the region are not Satanists, but kind people. In England, both the Anabaptists and the Quakers are beaten for their views. Rebekka remembers when the king pardoned Anabaptists on their way to be executed, disappointing her parents.
Although colonial America is full of religious tensions and disputes over religious differences, Rebekka shows that England, where people with different beliefs are executed, is far less tolerant of religious difference.
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Rebekka was chosen in school to undergo domestic service training. However, Rebekka left the program after four days because the head of the program was sexually harassing her. When Rebekka’s father found the advertisement looking for a woman willing to travel overseas for marriage, Rebekka hoped it would save her from her dismal prospects in England. Rebekka looked forward to her arranged marriage as a way to escape her mother, her dismissive brothers, and the men who leered at her in England.
Rebekka’s choice to go to the colonies was a way for her to escape the harsh realities of life as a woman in 17th-century England. Although Rebekka experiences much more privilege than her servants as a free white woman, her past is still plagued by sexual harassment and the legal and societal limits placed on women at the time.
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When Rebekka first moved in with Jacob, she visited a nearby church. The churchgoers explained their beliefs to Rebekka. Rebekka tried to be respectful, listening patiently to their doctrine. However, when they refused to baptize Patrician, Rebekka turned away from the church.
Rebekka’s religious experiences with her parents seem to be a big factor in her lack of religious vigor. Moreover, her protective motherhood makes her furious that the nearby church will not baptize Patrician.
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Rebekka’s mind focuses on her daughter Patrician. She thinks about processing her grief with Lina after Patrician’s death, when she was kicked in the head by a horse. According to the religion in which Rebekka grew up, expressing grief is ungrateful. However, after watching three of her babies die in infancy, it broke Rebekka’s heart to lose Patrician at age five. Rebekka then had to bury her twice, because the ground was still frozen the first time they tried.
Rebekka expresses her difficulty with religion after the death of her daughter Patrician and of her other children in infancy. In the type of Protestantism she was raised in, taking time for grief is not tolerated. Rebekka’s frustration with this cultural norm is similar to Lina’s, a commonality the women bond over.
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At present, Rebekka is ill and still mourning Jacob’s death only a few days before. Her thoughts, though, leave Jacob again and return to Patrician, her hair matted with blood after the accident. Rebekka remembers that when the ground finally softened and she and Jacob buried Patrician, she sat on the ground and stayed there all night. No one, not Lina, Jacob, or the local Pastor, could get Rebekka up.
Morrison emphasizes the immensity of Rebekka’s grief and the potential pain of motherhood when she describes Rebekka lying on the ground all night after burying her daughter. Clearly, motherhood for Rebekka has been heartbreaking because her children have all died.
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When dawn came, Lina left jewelry and food as offerings on the grave, part of her native religious practices, and told Rebekka that Patrician and the babies that Rebekka lost are in the stars. Rebekka thought this was “pagan stuff,” but found it more appealing than Christian heaven.
Although many forms of European Christianity in the colonies assert that they are the only correct religion, Rebekka finds the native idea that her children are in the stars much more comforting.
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This reminds Rebekka of one summer day when she and Lina sat sewing and doing laundry, discussing God’s role in people’s lives. Rebekka told Lina that she doesn’t believe that God knows they each exist, in spite of having created them. The two women laughed. Rebekka wonders if Patrician’s accident was punishment for that blasphemous conversation.
While Lina’s religion comforts Rebekka in her time of grief, Rebekka does still seem to blame Patrician’s death on her blasphemy and other Christian concepts. Rebekka cannot shake the system of Christian ideas of sin and punishment.
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Rebekka, feverishly thinks again of her journey across the Atlantic, hallucinating the women she met on the boat. There were seven other women in the cramped steerage section. Rebekka remembers the range of baggage, clothing, speech, and attitude among the women, a mix of disgraced middle class daughters, prostitutes, and thieves. Only Rebekka was crossing the ocean for marriage. The others were having their passages paid by relatives or people they would go on to work for as indentured servants.
The women that Rebekka meets on her transatlantic voyage are a mix of different kinds of people, and mostly not reputable ones. These women have been left with few options in the legal, social, and economic systems of 17th-century England, which do not allow women to own property, become educated, or access a number of lucrative jobs.
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Over the course of their voyage, Rebekka learned more about her co-travelers, discovering their talents and their backgrounds. Rebekka became closest with Dorothea, and when she told her she was about to be married for the first time, Dorothea laughed and told Judith there was a virgin in their midst. They traded bawdy jokes until Anne, offended, told them to stop. A crewman above them closed the hatch, plunging the women into darkness. Then they lit the lamp and huddled around it.
Although the women on Rebekka’s ship are from many different walks of life, they bond by talking about marriage and sex, two things that, as women in 17th-century Europe and the colonies, define their lives and their access to money. The women provide a temporary community for each other in the harsh nautical conditions.
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Patty asked where Abigail was, and Dorothea called Abigail, who was in the captain’s cabin, a “lucky whore.” She imagined the good things (berries, wine, etc.) Abigail was probably eating at his table. The women quibbled over Dorothea’s comments. Rebekka then offered to share the cheese and biscuits she brought with her for the trip.
Abigail, who the captain chose to join him in his cabin for sex, shows how women’s bodies become bargaining chips for them to gain money, necessities, and power. The other women’s jealousy makes them say nasty things about her.
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The women pretended to have tea together in the low lamplight, imitating what they imagined was aristocratic behavior. Judith spread out her shawl for a tablecloth, and Lydia heated water. There was no tea, so they drank hot water with rum and ate Rebekka’s cheese and biscuits. Rebekka remembers how, although the women around her were women “of and for men,” while they had tea together they were “neither.” At last the lamp died, and everyone was quiet and still. Time felt, in that moment, eternal to Rebekka.
When Rebekka thinks that the women on her ship are “of and for men,” she acknowledges that, in their society, living in a way that is not “of and for men” is functionally impossible, because of the constraints in place that keep women from gaining power. However, when they are removed from male society, the women form a female community that is entirely their own.
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After they landed, the women did not pretend that they would meet up again, parting unsentimentally. This turns out to be accurate, and except in her fever dreams at present, Rebekka never saw them again.
Despite their bond on the boat, the women’s diverse social and economic classes mean that they become divided immediately upon landing.
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Rebekka then remembers seeing Jacob for the first time and thinking he was “bigger” than she had imagined. Jacob, who Rebekka called “Mr. Vaark” until she became comfortable with him, helped her with her boxes, took off his hat, touched her face, and smiled. Rebekka felt that Jacob’s whole life had been leading up to meeting her, since when he saw her he seemed so satisfied.
Although on the boat Rebekka seemed happy to be away from the demands of men, when Rebekka meets Jacob, her satisfaction with him eclipses her frustration with having her options limited. Their relationship is immediately intimate and romantic despite being an arranged marriage.
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Rebekka refuses Jacob’s offer to help her into the wagon. Rebekka intended to accept no pampering, thinking that they needed to be partners in work. Jacob took Rebekka to a coffeehouse with a sign reading “Marriages performed within” on the door. The cleric there married them. Afterward, they got back in the wagon to head to Jacob’s farm.
Rebekka’s marriage to Jacob gives her the self-sufficient partnership she desires, rather than chivalrous pampering. Their marriage is not religious whatsoever— it is not even performed in a church.
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When Rebekka and Jacob slept together for the first time, Jacob seemed shy to Rebekka. Rebekka thought that sex was nothing like how Dorothea or Lydia described it to her. Jacob and Rebekka came to learn each other’s preferences, habits, etc. Jacob did not care especially about religion, and was indifferent to Rebekka’s own spiritual choices. Rebekka chose not to join the local church. Rebekka and Jacob developed a supportive relationship, needing only each other. However, although they planned on having children, Rebekka had trouble nursing. All of their children born after Patrician died in infancy.
Rebekka discussed sex with Dorothea and Lydia before she has sex with Jacob for the first time, showing how female communities can serve as a place for women to gain knowledge about subjects that are taboo in other circles. It does seem, though, that the kind of sex Dorothea and Lydia, who are prostitutes, have is very different than Rebekka’s sex with Jacob. Again, neither Rebekka nor Jacob is interested in religion.
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Jacob, convinced the farm would never be profitable, began to spend more time trading. Although Rebekka found Jacob’s stories of his travels exciting, they also made her worry about the threatening world beyond her farm. Jacob sometimes would bring Rebekka a new servant to help her with chores or gifts.
Jacob’s failure as a farmer and turn to trading constitutes a failure of the romanticized pastoral life that Jacob dreamed of. Unsatisfied by the rustic life of a farmer, Jacob gains wealth as a trader.
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Eventually Jacob started to tell Rebekka fewer stories and bring her more elaborate gifts. Rebekka did not ask him questions and instead smiled at the presents. Finally, though, Rebekka asked him where the money for the gifts had been coming from. Jacob told her he had “new arrangements.” Rebekka now thinks that these beautiful, useless gifts should have made her unsurprised by Jacob’s eventual decision to build his new, huge house. Rebekka was unhappy about the house, thinking it was useless and boastful.
Jacob’s increasing silence suggests that his pursuit of money is leading him to unsavory business deals that he would rather not discuss. In exchange for his absence and silence, Jacob gives Rebekka expensive but useless gifts, showing how, although meaningless, Jacob has begun to value material wealth above all else.
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One day as she shaved him, Rebekka told Jacob she did not think they needed the enormous new house. Jacob responded by telling Rebekka that need was “not the reason” for building it. The purpose was legacy, Jacob said. He insisted on building it.
Jacob seems to be attempting to make up for his lack of male children by building a mansion that he can leave as his “legacy” to display the wealth he has attained.
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The building of the house brought lots of men, equipment, and horses to the farm, including the horse that kicked Patrician in the head. Rebekka did not notice Jacob coming down with smallpox in the frenzy, only realizing he was sick when he collapsed. No one came to the farm after that for fear of catching the sickness and the laborers left.
The fact that the horse that kicked Patrician in the head was a horse that was brought to the farm to work on Jacob’s mansion shows that, like giving Rebekka gifts in exchange for his silence and absence, the house building is not worth the human cost.
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Per Jacob’s final request, Rebekka and the servants carried Jacob into his new house to die. It was raining, and they struggled with the gate, laying him in the mud so they could undo the hinges. Finally they got into the house and set Jacob down. Jacob died and Rebekka closed his eyes. Rebekka, Lina, Sorrow, and Florens sat down on the floor and cried.
Jacob’s death renders the mansion, although intended to be his legacy, empty and unfulfilling. The scene of Jacob’s demise shows how material wealth cannot stave off sickness, and its value disappears in death.
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Rebekka’s sickness feels like a bad joke to her, and she thinks of how Dorothea used to say “Congratulations, Satan,” when the ship rocked violently. Rebekka hallucinates seeing the women from the ship in her bedroom and listens to their imaginary chitchat. Just like the women Rebekka knew in real life, the hallucinated women are self-centered, but they offer Rebekka comforting distraction.
In her sickness and distress, Rebekka hallucinates her friends from the boat, bringing her calm and distraction. Although they are not real, Rebekka’s imagination of her friends shows how female community can leave a lasting impact and provide memories of comfort and support to fall back on.
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Rebekka thinks of the Bible story of Job, who was once prosperous before God subjected him to a series of punishments to test his faith. Rebekka thinks that all along Job only wanted God’s attention anyway. Rebekka wonders, though, whether a female Job would feel the same. After all, Rebekka thinks, “invisibility was intolerable to men,” and a female Job would have already known the humility and fidelity that Job had to learn.
As Rebekka thinks of Job, she imagines what his story would be like if he were a woman. In doing so, Rebekka draws attention to the fact that male stories are centered in both the Bible and literature in general. She also thinks about how women, unlike men, are used to being invisible, highlighting a double standard.
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Finally the women Rebekka imagines fade. Lina is sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. Rebekka thinks that even before Jacob’s death, she missed him often. With Jacob gone, neither Patrician nor Lina nor the Baptists were enough to keep her occupied. Rebekka dislikes the Baptists especially. She thinks that their definition of God is even narrower than her parents’. In their faith, no one except those who join their church are saved, and no black people, Catholics, or Jews can be saved.
When Rebekka states that the Baptists’ definition of God is extremely narrow, she notes that they do not believe that black people, Catholics, or Jews can go to heaven. This shows how racism (and xenophobia in general) is built into the doctrine of many religions, and can be used as an excuse to perpetuate bigotry.
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Rebekka holds a particular grudge against the Baptists because they refused to baptize her children. Moreover, they have plenty of living, healthy children, while all of Rebekka’s children have died. Rebekka feels jealous and guilty about her own failure when she sees the Baptists’ children.
Rebekka’s personal grief with the Baptists is due to their refusal to baptize her children, who subsequently died. As a result, according to many Christian religions, Rebekka’s children cannot go to heaven.
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Besides, Rebekka thinks, the Baptists did not help her loneliness when Jacob was gone. The loneliness struck without warning. Then, finally, Jacob would arrive to dispel her sadness. Rebekka happily remembers listening to him tell the stories of his travels while holding a baby on her lap, forgetting her loneliness in those moments.
Rebekka’s intense loneliness during Jacob’s absences show how emotionally dependent she is on him. Despite her strong friendship with Lina and the children that she has at various points, Rebekka struggles to be happy without her husband.
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Rebekka’s thoughts then turn to a memory of a conversation with Lina. The two women were sitting by a stream doing laundry. Lina was holding Rebekka’s baby. Rebekka asked Lina if she had ever slept with a man. Lina replied that she did once, and that it was “not good.” When Rebekka asked more about it, Lina implied that the encounter was violent. Lina handed the baby to Rebekka then dressed and walked with Patrician back to the house, carrying the laundry basket.
Lina’s past relationships with men have been violent, at least according to what Rebekka garners from this conversation with her. For Lina, sex and romance are sources of trauma that she does not feel comfortable discussing. Lina is one of many women is the book who experiences domestic abuse and/or sexual violence.
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Rebekka, now alone with her baby, thought again how lucky she was to be with Jacob. Jacob did not beat Rebekka, although wife beating was common and legal with certain restrictions. That protection, however, did not extend to lovers outside of marriage. Rebekka wondered if Lina’s lover was a native, a rich man, or a soldier or sailor. Rebekka suspected he was a rich man since she had never known a kind one.
Rebekka’s reflections on wife beating, though clearly not disturbing to her, are jarring to the reader. The fact that wife-beating is legislated shows how domestic abuse is sanctioned and normalized by the government, emphasizing how the oppression of women is built into the legal system.
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Rebekka reflects that only her mother has ever hit her. Now, Rebekka is unsure of whether her mother is still alive. Rebekka once received word that her family had moved, but that is the only info she has gotten about them over the years. Rebekka wonders how her mother might look now, and if old age would make her kinder.
Although Rebekka is not literally an orphan, she is entirely disconnected from her family. Thus Rebekka, estranged from her unloving family, could be considered one of the many orphan figures in the book.
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Rebekka begs for her mirror, and Lina finally gives it to her. Rebekka looks at her ruined face and apologizes out loud to it. Lina begs Rebekka to let her take the mirror away, but Rebekka clings to it.
Rebekka’s sadness at her reflection is due to the fact that smallpox leaves sufferers physically disfigured for life, marring her beauty and her ability to find a new husband.
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Rebekka thinks of how happy her life was before Jacob’s death. Rebekka remembers the role that the Blacksmith played in their lives, functioning like an “anchor.” She remembers how Lina was afraid of him, Sorrow grateful to him, and Florens in love with him. Rebekka sent Florens to go find the Blacksmith because he was the only one Rebekka could rely on. Rebekka trusts Florens because she is smart, and because she has affection for her, although it took a while to develop.
As Rebekka recalls her relationship to the Blacksmith, Morrison uses her account to further situate the reader in the network of relationships in the text, showing how the Blacksmith fits in with the Vaark household. Rebekka’s conviction that Florens is the right one to find the Blacksmith draws attention to Florens’s devotion to him.
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Though Jacob had thought that giving Rebekka a girl close to Patrician’s age would comfort her, Rebekka had found it insulting. She paid little attention to Florens when she arrived. Anyway, Lina adopted Florens so thoroughly that Rebekka did not have to do much to care for her. Ultimately, Florens’s eagerness to please endeared her to Rebekka. Rebekka attributes this people-pleasing inclination to the fact that, according to Jacob, Florens’s mother was eager to give her up.
Rebekka recounts Florens’s arrival at the Vaark household and her subsequent ability to win Rebekka over with her eagerness to please. Rebekka diagnoses Florens’s desire for praise as a result of her mother’s perceived lack of interest in her daughter, suggesting the importance of the mother-daughter relationship and the potential trauma that could result from a bad one.
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Rebekka also sees this as the psychological reason for Florens’s fast attachment to the Blacksmith. Jacob did not worry about Florens’s attraction to him since the Blacksmith would not be around for a long time, and since his work was invaluable. Jacob was right, since the Blacksmith cured Sorrow of her illness. Rebekka prays that the Blacksmith can do the same for her, and that Florens can persuade him to come.
Rebekka also diagnoses Florens’s quick affection for and trust in the Blacksmith as symptomatic of her mother’s neglect as a child. Clearly, Rebekka sees a healthy maternal bond as supremely important in establishing healthy romantic relationships later in life.
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Rebekka tells herself it will all be all right, just like how her loneliness was always okay in the end. Rebekka rationalized many of her marital anxieties, including Jacob’s increasing greed. Regardless, Jacob was present in Rebekka’s life, sleeping next to her at night, until his sudden death.
Although Rebekka and Jacob enjoyed a loving partnership, Rebekka often kept her feelings about Jacob’s choices a secret. This shows how, even in their relatively happy marriage, Rebekka’s female voice is silenced.
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Rebekka wonders if the Anabaptists were right and her self-sufficiency and happiness with Jacob were blasphemy. Rebekka thinks again of her shipmates, who trusted in themselves. The Baptists, meanwhile, trusted in God, leading safe and meek lives. Rebekka juxtaposes the shipmates and the Baptists, thinking how they would each think the other were deeply flawed.
As Rebekka juxtaposes her friends from her transatlantic journey with the Baptists she knows in town, she clearly differentiates between two different ways of going about life: one which is self-sufficient, independent, and pleasurable, and the other which is pious, meek, and safe.
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Still, Rebekka thinks that they have the “promise and threat of men” in common. Rebekka thinks that some women, like Lina, have withdrawn completely from men. Others, like Sorrow, have become victims of them. Rebecca’s shipmates “fought” men, while the Baptists “obeyed them.” Rebekka identifies herself as a woman who reverted to a child-like state without her man. A widow, Rebekka notes, has no legal status in 17th century America. Rebekka thinks this makes sense with the story of Adam and Eve, the original widow.
As Rebekka contemplates how the different women in her life deal with the “promise and threat of men,” she highlights how impossible it is to navigate life as a woman in 17th-century America without sacrificing something. Each of the strategies that Rebekka lists entails some sacrifice. When Rebekka highlights widows’ lack of legal status, she also shows how the oppression of women is legally constituted.
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The Anabaptists feel completely comfortable with this black-and-white version of the Adam and Eve story, with Eve goading and betraying Adam. According to Rebekka, they also have binary understandings of good and bad, and clear-cut understandings of good and bad people. For example, according to the Anabaptists, natives and Africans do not have access to heaven.
Rebekka implies that she sees the story of Adam and Eve, and by extension relations between men and women, as more complicated than the straightforward Bible story might seem. Rebekka reiterates that Anabaptists deny the possibility of heaven to people of color, highlighting that spiritual element of racism.
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The Anabaptist vision of heaven is not only divine but thrilling, an adventurous paradise with music and feasts and dreams come true. According to the Anabaptists, if a mother is religiously devout, her children might get into heaven. More importantly, in Anabaptist heaven, there is an abundance of time to enjoy the benefits of heaven—sleigh rides and skating, good weather when desired and no illness, pain, aging, or dying.
Although Rebekka seems skeptical of many of the Anabaptist teachings, as she ponders their vision of heaven many aspects of it appeal to her. For example, Rebekka, whose children were not baptized, likes the idea that, if she is devout enough, her children could still go to heaven.
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To access this heaven that the Anabaptists dream of, Rebekka would only have to believe in their faith. Rebekka pictures herself talking with Jacob again. Now, though, with her husband gone, Rebekka is alone with the servants. Sorrow is worried about what will happen to her if Rebekka should die. Lina, though, seems unconcerned for her own future, as if “she has seen and survived everything.”
Rebekka thinks that, in order to access the heaven that so appeals to her, all she must do is genuinely believe and participate in the Anabaptist faith. Rebekka clearly has developed an anxiety about her future as a widow and about her life after death. She longs to talk with Jacob, as she could in heaven.
Themes
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Rebekka remembers how, the second year that Jacob was away, she, Lina, and Patrician almost starved in an off-season blizzard. Rebekka recalls Lina going to the river, breaking the ice, and collecting salmon to feed them. Rebekka thinks that “that was Lina,” before wondering if it was, in fact, God. Rebekka wonders if her voyage to America and the death of her whole family is a test from God. Rebekka’s thoughts race as she wonders whether Florens will make it back with the Blacksmith in time to save her.
As Rebekka becomes more and more drawn to the possibility of attaining a place in Anabaptist heaven, and as she becomes more and more ill, she begins to re-read some of her past experiences, like Lina catching salmon, as God’s doing. This is ironic, considering that Lina can catch salmon thanks to her upbringing in native culture, which is diametrically opposed to Christian religion.
Themes
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon