A Mercy

Lina is a native woman owned by Jacob Vaark. Lina is loyal, superstitious, and hardworking. She is a friend of her mistress Rebekka Vaark and a surrogate mother to Florens. Lina began her life in a native village (of an unnamed tribe). During her adolescence, however, a plague of smallpox afflicted her village, killing nearly everyone. Following the epidemic, European soldiers burned the village and gave Lina to a village of Presbyterians. During her tenure with them, Lina had a romance with a European man that turned into a highly abusive relationship. The Presbyterians later sold Lina to Jacob Vaark. Despite her churchgoing with the Presbyterians, Lina practices native rituals and healing remedies. She is skeptical of European culture, systems, and people.

Lina Quotes in A Mercy

The A Mercy quotes below are all either spoken by Lina or refer to Lina. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of A Mercy published in 2009.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Afraid of once more losing shelter, terrified of being alone in the world without family, Lina acknowledged her status as heathen and let herself be purified by these worthies. She learned that bathing naked in the river was a sin; that plucking cherries from a tree burdened with them was theft…That God hated idleness most of all, so staring off into space to weep for a mother or a playmate was to court damnation.

Related Characters: Lina
Page Number: 55-56
Explanation and Analysis:

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They would forever fence land, ship whole trees to faraway countries, take any woman for quick pleasure, ruin soil, befoul sacred places and worship a dull, unimaginative god…Cut loose from the earth’s soul, they insisted on purchase of its soil, and like all orphans they were insatiable…Lina was not so sure. Based on the way Sir and Mistress tried to run their farm, she knew there were exceptions to the sachem’s revised prophecy.

Related Characters: Lina, Rebekka Vaark, Jacob Vaark
Related Symbols: Orphans
Page Number: 63-64
Explanation and Analysis:

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The traveler laughs at the beauty saying, “This is perfect. This is mine.” And the word swells, booming like thunder into the valleys, over acres of primrose and mallow…Mine. Mine. Mine. The shells of the eagle’s eggs quiver and one even cracks…Spotting the traveler, [the eagle] swoops down to claw away his laugh…the traveler…raises his stick and strikes her…screaming she falls and falls.

…”Where is she now?”
“Still falling…”
“And the eggs…do they live?”
“We have.”

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), Lina (speaker)
Page Number: 72-73
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Sir steps out. Mistress stands up and rushes to him. Her naked skin is aslide with wintergreen. Lina and I looked at each other. What is she fearing, I ask. Nothing, says Lina. Why then does she run to Sir? Because she can, Lina answers. We never shape the world she says. The world shapes us.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), Lina (speaker), Rebekka Vaark, Jacob Vaark
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

They once thought they were a kind of family because together they had carved companionship out of isolation. But the family they imagined they had become was false. Whatever each one loved, sought or escaped, their futures were separate and anyone’s guess.

Related Characters: Florens, Lina, Sorrow, Rebekka Vaark, Jacob Vaark, Willard, Scully
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lina Character Timeline in A Mercy

The timeline below shows where the character Lina 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
Florens says that Lina tells her that this is why her feet are so delicate and weak. Lina asks... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Lina and Rebekka stuff the boots with cornhusks and hay so they fit Florens better and... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Florens thinks of the bears in the forest. Lina warns Florens of enormous birds in the wilderness, and of natives who are not like... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
According to Lina, who estimates from the state of Florens’s teeth, Florens was seven or eight when she... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...of what she learned from the Reverend. Florens likes to talk and enjoys conversation with Lina, Sorrow, and the Blacksmith. When she first arrived at the Vaark farm, Florens did not... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Florens prefers sleeping with Lina in her broken sleigh to sleeping with her mother and brother on the floor. In... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...Jacob forced them to, since Will and Scully’s master owed him money. Florens recounts how Lina thinks that Jacob “has a clever way of getting without giving,” which Florens agrees with. (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...the farm, the freezing temperatures in the winter made her believe she was in hell. Lina wrapped Florens in warm clothes. Rebekka looked away from her. Sorrow waved a hand in... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Lina told Florens that Sorrow is pregnant and the father is unknown. Lina believed the child... (full context)
Chapter 2
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...slave girl, like the acquisition of Sorrow, as “rescues.” Only the third slave he owns, Lina, was, in Jacob’s view, an “outright and deliberate” purchase. (full context)
Chapter 3
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Next, Florens comes back to Lina and herself waiting in the village together for the Ney brothers’ wagon to pick Florens... (full context)
Chapter 4
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Chapter 4 returns to a third-person limited narrative, this time from the perspective of Lina. The chapter opens by describing how Lina had always been wary and unimpressed by the... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
...Rebekka constantly had a smile on her face. Everyone else was in good spirits too. Lina thinks she never saw Jacob happier, not even when his children were born. (full context)
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina describes Jacob’s choice to build the house as a decision to “kill the trees and... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina also wonders why Rebekka sent Florens to find the Blacksmith rather than swallowing her pride... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...did not look at Florens, who was holding a milking stool and looking mesmerized. Though Lina noticed Florens’s crush, she thought for sure that the Blacksmith would be attracted to Sorrow,... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...the meeting, the Blacksmith removed his hat and looked Rebekka in the eye, something that Lina has never seen an African do. Lina, who had been told that culturally Africans could... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Lina thinks about the destruction of her village, wishing that she had known more about healing... (full context)
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Lina recalls fighting off the crows that came to scavenge the bodies, along with two young... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina does not know where the soldiers took the boys, but knows that they took her... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Because Lina did not want to be cast out by the Presbyterians, she adopted their faith and... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Later, alone at Jacob’s farm, Lina tried to remember the healing knowledge she learned from her mother before she died. Being... (full context)
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Lina remembers Jacob’s burst of activity as he waited for Rebekka to arrive from Europe. When... (full context)
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina found life on the Vaark farm unrewarding. Lina was not especially verbose with Jacob and... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
With Rebekka now sick, Lina tries to use native remedies to heal her, putting magic stones under her pillow and... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina remembers how they opened the iron gate to the new, big house to bring Jacob... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Jacob had bought Lina, on the other hand, from the Presbyterians when she was fourteen. He searched through the... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
However, the animosity between Lina and Rebekka dissipated when Lina delivered Rebekka’s first child. They became friends, confiding in each... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
When Jacob brought Sorrow back to the farm, both Lina and Rebekka were unhappy about it. Rebekka found Sorrow useless, while Lina thought that she... (full context)
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
The chief of Lina’s tribe had predicted the Europeans would eventually die or leave the native’s land. However, he... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina returns to thinking about Sorrow. She remembers one time when they trusted Sorrow, who was... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
One day while they were preparing mincemeat, Lina told Rebekka that she believes Sorrow carries bad spirits with her. Rebekka told Lina her... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Now, Lina thinks, Sorrow is pregnant again, and her baby will possibly survive this time. Lina wonders... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...and Scully, the indentured servants who sometimes work on the Vaark farm, stay away too. Lina is saddened by this, but chalks up their lack of loyalty to the fact that... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...over, but he believes it is soon, because there is a contract supposedly saying so. Lina suspects, however, that Scully has not seen the contract and cannot read it if he... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Lina knows that Scully and Willard sleep together “when sleep was not the point,” meaning that... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Lina implores Rebekka not to die, wondering what will become of herself, Florens, Sorrow, and Sorrow’s... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina looks out the window in Rebekka’s sickroom. Rebekka mumbles feverishly, and Lina follows her gaze... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Lina ponders Florens, thinking of when she first saw her when she arrived at the farm.... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Lina remembers Jacob and the Blacksmith amicably talking while Jacob sliced an apple, and Jacob offering... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Lina returns to thinking about when Florens arrived at the farm, quiet and shy, on the... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Lina remembers one story that Florens especially liked. In the story, an eagle lays eggs in... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Lina returns to the present and Rebekka, sick, seeing her face in the mirror. Lina leaves... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
At the river, Lina does not find Sorrow. She does, however, smell fire. Moving towards the smoke, Lina sees... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina walks back toward the house, happy that nothing bad has happened to Florens yet but... (full context)
Chapter 5
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Florens thinks of how Lina tells her that some spirits look after warriors, while others look after virgins and mothers.... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...spite of this incident, Florens feels that Rebekka has a good heart. She remembers when Lina asked Rebekka for Patrician’s old shoes to give to Florens, and how Rebekka agreed, but... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
...remembers that, as Rebekka was washing, a moose appeared. Rebekka stared at the creature fearfully. Lina shouted and threw a stone at the animal, prompting the moose to walk away. Jacob’s... (full context)
Chapter 6
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Rebekka rambles to Lina, her mind returning to her transatlantic voyage. Rebekka remembers that, upon finally landing in North... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
When dawn came, Lina left jewelry and food as offerings on the grave, part of her native religious practices,... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Finally the women Rebekka imagines fade. Lina is sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. Rebekka thinks that even... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
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.... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Rebekka begs for her mirror, and Lina finally gives it to her. Rebekka looks at her ruined face and apologizes out loud... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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.” (full context)
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,... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...with the Blacksmith and he put a hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. Lina knew what was going on between them, and she told Florens one night while they... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
As Florens was falling asleep, Lina told her about her bad experience with her lover, with whom she met in secret.... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
The Presbyterians stared at Lina when she appeared covered in blood. Ultimately they decided to sell her. They forced Lina... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Lina focused her attention back on Florens to tell her that she must be wary of... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...ride, Sorrow vomited. Twin was happy when they saw the farm. Sorrow evaluated Rebekka and Lina when she met them, contrasting their skin colors and observing that they both had straight... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...turnips, Sorrow saw Patrician at the garden’s edge and waved at her. Patrician waved back. Lina appeared and shooed Patrician away. In the morning, Lina checked around Sorrow’s bed to make... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Lina does not often speak to Sorrow, but she was the one who told Sorrow she... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
When Sorrow’s baby was born, she thought she saw it yawn. Lina, though, told her it was dead, and wrapped it in cloth before putting it in... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...quiet. He brought her a neckerchief that she threw in the stream, knowing that if Lina saw it she would tell Rebekka. Rebekka lost another another child, but Patrician stayed healthy... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...got jealous, and told her not to reach out and touch one of Florens’s braids. Lina led Florens away, and, according to Sorrow, “thereafter, the girl belonged to Lina.” Lina kept... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Several years later, the Blacksmith arrived at the farm. Sorrow remembers how Lina was afraid of him and tried to warn Rebekka about him, but Rebekka paid no... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
The Blacksmith insisted that Rebekka and Lina feed Sorrow nothing during her sickness, only fanning her and soaking her boils in vinegar.... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...Rebekka’s bedroom, sitting beside her. Rebekka thanks him repeatedly. The Blacksmith leaves the room and Lina follows him. Sorrow, though, lingers by the door long enough to see Rebekka get down... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...sits down in the grass, stroking her pregnant stomach. Through the kitchen window she overhears Lina asking the Blacksmith where Florens is and when she will return. The Blacksmith gives few... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...leaves again. Sorrow stands in the doorway, unable to sleep, and watches him ride away. Lina clearly is still upset about Florens, wondering whether the Blacksmith was telling the truth. Sorrow... (full context)
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
...the laundry is molding because no one is hanging it. Rebekka is still ill, and Lina is so distracted by Florens’s absence that she does nothing to help. (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...sick, and Sorrow, who still thinks her first baby was born alive, does not trust Lina to help her. Sorrow walks to the riverbank where she hopes to find Will and... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Two days later at the farm, Lina hides her disgust with Sorrow and continues to worry about Florens. Rebekka says nothing about... (full context)
Chapter 10
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...women (including Florens, who has returned home) on the farm now seem distracted. Willard thinks Lina seems like she is about to boil over. Scully, who has been ogling Lina for... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...to describe how he feels about each of the women on the farm, starting with Lina. (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Despite Scully’s voyeuristic gaze upon Lina as she bathes, Scully admires her as a person, thinking that her loyalty to Rebekka... (full context)
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...evaluation of Florens’s susceptibility to rape, the narrator assures that, beyond his habit of watching Lina bathe, Scully is uninterested in sex with women. Scully sees Florens’s change from sexually susceptible... (full context)
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...about her increasingly nasty behavior towards her other servants. When Rebekka beats Sorrow, takes down Lina’s hammock, and decides to sell Florens, Scully is quiet. However, he tries to do nice... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...from the Blacksmith. Still, she keeps picturing their violent final encounter. At night Florens leaves Lina asleep to go into Jacob’s mansion and scratch words into the wood of one room.... (full context)
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Florens learns from Scully and Willard that Rebekka is going to sell her but keep Lina. Meanwhile, no one will take Sorrow and her baby. Florens admires Sorrow’s devotion to her... (full context)
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Florens thinks of how Lina tried to warn her about the Blacksmith. She thinks again of a time the Blacksmith... (full context)