A Mercy

Sorrow Character Analysis

Sorrow is a young woman and an orphan who works on the Vaarks’ farm. Several times during the book, characters imply that Sorrow is mixed race and heavily suggest that Sorrow suffers from some kind of mental illness or possession by evil spirits. Sorrow’s exact origins are unknown to everyone else in the book. As an adolescent, a lumberjack found Sorrow half drowned on a beach and took her back to his wife. Sorrow would tell them nothing about her prior life, so the lumberjack’s wife named her “Sorrow.” The lumberjack sold Sorrow to Jacob after she proved unable to complete simple tasks. During her chapter, Sorrow reveals that, prior to being found on the beach, she was a Captain’s daughter who had spent her whole life on a ship. When the ship was wrecked, Sorrow began hallucinating an imaginary friend, Twin. Sorrow became pregnant before arriving at the Vaarks farm. When Lina delivers her baby, she tells her it is stillborn and sets it in the river to be carried away. Sorrow is convinced the baby was alive and suffers greatly from the loss. The next time she becomes pregnant, presumably from her secret meetings with the deacon, Sorrow has a healthy baby. Following the birth of her child, Sorrow stops hallucinating and becomes more focused and capable. She renames herself “Complete.”

Sorrow Quotes in A Mercy

The A Mercy quotes below are all either spoken by Sorrow or refer to Sorrow. 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 8 Quotes

The blacksmith and Florens were rocking and, unlike female farm animals in heat, she was not standing quietly under the weight and thrust of the male. What Sorrow saw yonder in the grass…was not the silent submission…that Sorrow knew…It was a dancing…It all ended when the blacksmith grabbed Florens’ hair, yanked her head back to put his mouth on hers…It amazed her to see that. In all of the goings she knew, no one had ever kissed her mouth. Ever.

Related Characters: Florens, The Blacksmith, Sorrow
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

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Although all her life she had been saved by men— Captain, the sawyers’ sons, Sir and now Will and Scully— she was convinced that this time she had done something, something important, by herself.

Related Characters: Sorrow, Jacob Vaark, Willard, Scully
Page Number: 157
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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Sorrow Character Timeline in A Mercy

The timeline below shows where the character Sorrow 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
...Although Florens can read, she does not read the letter, and neither do Lina or Sorrow, who are illiterate. Florens, however, knows it is a letter to give to anyone who... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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 talk,... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...she was in hell. Lina wrapped Florens in warm clothes. Rebekka looked away from her. Sorrow waved a hand in front of her face at nothing. (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 is Jacob’s. Rebekka said... (full context)
Chapter 2
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Because of this sympathy, ten years ago Jacob took on a girl called Sorrow that a lumberjack found nearly drowned on a riverbank. At the time, Jacob needed the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...part of a winter. In the winter, a disease shows up, similar to one that Sorrow had previously. This time, the disease strikes Jacob. He becomes moody and develops blisters, vomiting... (full context)
Chapter 4
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...Lina noticed Florens’s crush, she thought for sure that the Blacksmith would be attracted to Sorrow, not Florens. When Lina learns from Rebekka that the Blacksmith is a free man, not... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...gate the Blacksmith made as a complete waste of time, she admires how he saved Sorrow’s life. Lina ponders Sorrow, who Jacob had agreed to take from some lumberjacks that found... (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... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina returns to thinking about Sorrow. She remembers one time when they trusted Sorrow, who was pregnant at the time, with... (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 baby died of a fever, not... (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 what will... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...working on his property. Now, however, the plan seems to have backfired. Rebekka is sick, Sorrow is pregnant, and Florens is lovestruck and running after the Blacksmith. (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 baby if they are left alone without a master. None of them are... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...immediately became attached to her. Lina decided to protect Florens, trying to keep her from Sorrow and from the Blacksmith. Lina saw how Florens was attracted to the Blacksmith immediately, and... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...competed for Patrician’s affection, Lina was the only one who paid attention to Florens. Unlike Sorrow, Florens can read and write, quickly completes chores, and responds well to affection and praise.... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...her face in the mirror. Lina leaves the room to do chores and to find Sorrow, so she can tell her to muck out the stalls. Lina goes into the cowshed... (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 a group of people... (full context)
Chapter 5
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Florens thinks of the time she, Rebekka, and Sorrow went to sell the cows and a village woman slapped Sorrow in the face. When... (full context)
Chapter 6
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...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)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Chapter 8 follows Sorrow’s limited third-person narrative. The narrator begins the chapter by stating that Sorrow does not mind... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
According to Sorrow, she met Twin under one of the hammocks of the ship she was on after... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Sorrow grew up on that ship and had never lived on land before. Alone on the... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Sorrow put on the clothes and ate breakfast. When Sorrow’s saviors asked her name, Twin told... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
The lumberjack’s wife tried to get Sorrow to care for the geese. Because of Sorrow’s sea legs, she stumbled and tripped throughout... (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 Sorrow bled, the housewife told her it was her period. However, she did not bleed again... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Jacob took Sorrow away to his farm on horseback. During the ride, Sorrow vomited. Twin was happy when... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
The next morning, Sorrow threw up her breakfast. Rebekka told her to work in the vegetable garden. As she... (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 was pregnant. Sorrow recalls her utter... (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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Sorrow began meeting with the local deacon in secret. He brought her cherries and walnuts and... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Sorrow remembers that Florens arrived on the farm next, and Sorrow was happy to meet someone... (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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Sorrow lay outside in a hammock with the women fanning her. She hallucinated that she and... (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. Finally Sorrow’s... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
However, Sorrow thinks, Florens became sick anyway—with love for the Blacksmith. One day Sorrow was lying in... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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 on her knees... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Sorrow tiptoes away and out into the yard. She sits down in the grass, stroking her... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Before sunrise the next morning the Blacksmith leaves again. Sorrow stands in the doorway, unable to sleep, and watches him ride away. Lina clearly is... (full context)
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral Theme Icon
Sorrow is so pregnant she cannot bend down or lift anything heavy, so she cannot do... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
One day, Sorrow’s water breaks. Rebekka is still sick, and Sorrow, who still thinks her first baby was... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Sorrow wraps the baby in a blanket and dozes on the riverbank. Just before sunset she... (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 the baby. Sorrow says to... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Twin has completely disappeared from Sorrow’s consciousness. Sorrow stops wandering, and is now able to complete chores and care for her... (full context)
Chapter 10
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Only Sorrow’s change seems to be for the better. With her baby, she is more focused on... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Although Scully joins Willard in mocking Sorrow, he also admires her. He thinks the look in her eyes is not blank but... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...not say anything 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... (full context)
Chapter 11
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...the outhouses are in winter and what that cold could do to an infant like Sorrow’s. (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...weather, saying that sleeping outside in hammocks is for “savages.” On one very cold night Sorrow seeks shelter for herself and her baby in the house and Rebekka slaps her. Florens... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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 child. Sorrow has changed her name... (full context)