A Mercy

The Blacksmith Character Analysis

The Blacksmith is Florens’s lover, Malaik’s caretaker, and a contractor for Jacob. He is a free black man and a mysterious figure throughout A Mercy. The Blacksmith is the only main character in the novel (other than Florens’s mother) without a name—he is only ever referred to as “the blacksmith.” The Blacksmith comes to the Vaarks’ farm to make an iron fence and gate for Jacob’s new, fancy house. During his time at the farm, the Blacksmith heals Sorrow’s life-threatening sickness. He also begins a sexual relationship with Florens during this time, but leaves without saying goodbye to her. When Florens finds him to tell him Rebekka is sick, and that she wants to stay with him, she finds that he is taking care of an orphaned boy name Malaik. When the Blacksmith returns, the Blacksmith finds that Florens has hurt the boy out of jealousy. He casts Florens out, but not before she hits him with his smithing tongs, bloodying his face.

The Blacksmith Quotes in A Mercy

The A Mercy quotes below are all either spoken by The Blacksmith or refer to The Blacksmith. 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 1 Quotes

One question is who is responsible? Another is can you read? …Other signs need more time to understand. Often there are too many signs, or a bright omen clouds up too fast. I sort them and try to recall, yet I know I am missing much, like not reading the garden snake crawling up the door saddle to die.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), The Blacksmith
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

I don’t know the feeling of or what it means, free and not free. But I have a memory…I walk sometimes to search you… I hear something behind me and turn to see a stag… Standing there…I wonder what else the world may show me. It is as though I am loose to do what I choose, the stag, the wall of flowers. I am a little scare of this looseness. Is that how free feels? I don’t like it. I don’t want to be free of you because I am live only with you.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), The Blacksmith
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

They frown at the candle burn on my palm, the one you kissed to cool. They look under my arms, between my legs. They circle me, lean down to inspect my feet. Naked under their examination I watch for what is in their eyes. No hate is there or scare or disgust but they are looking at me my body across distances without recognition. Swine look at me with more connection.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), The Blacksmith
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

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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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Chapter 9 Quotes

Right away I take fright when I see my face is not there. Where my face should be is nothing…I put my mouth close enough to drink or kiss but I am not even a shadow there. Where is it hiding? Why is it? Soon Daughter Jane is kneeling next to me…Oh, Precious, don’t fret, she is saying, you will find it. Where I ask, where is my face…When I wake a minha mãe is standing by your cot and this time her baby boy is Malaik. He is holding her hand.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), The Blacksmith, Daughter Jane, Malaik
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

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I want you to go…because you are a slave…
What is your meaning? I am a slave because Sir trades for me.
No. You have become one.
How?
Your head is empty and your body is wild.
I am adoring you.
And a slave to that too.
You alone own me.
Own yourself, woman, and leave us be. You could have killed this child…You are nothing but wilderness. No constraint. No mind.
You shout the word—mind, mind, mind—over and over and then you laugh, saying as I live and breathe, a slave by choice.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), The Blacksmith (speaker), Jacob Vaark, Malaik
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

You say you see slaves freer than free men. One is a lion in the skin of an ass. The other is an ass in the skin of a lion. That it is the withering inside that enslaves and opens the door for what is wild. I know my withering is born in the Widow’s closet…I cannot stop…wanting to tear you open the way you tear me. Still, there is another thing. A lion who thinks his mane is all. A she-lion who does not. I learn this from Daughter Jane…She risks. Risks all to save the slave you throw out.

Related Characters: Florens (speaker), The Blacksmith, Daughter Jane
Page Number: 187-188
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Blacksmith Character Timeline in A Mercy

The timeline below shows where the character The Blacksmith appears in A Mercy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...addressing an unknown and not-present second person audience (who later turns out to be the Blacksmith). Florens tells the Blacksmith not to be afraid, because what she is going to recount... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...She seems to mean not just reading text, but also reading symbols. Florens tells the Blacksmith that not all signs are so easy to read, and many take more time to... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...“feet of a Portuguese lady.” Florens explains that when she set out to find the Blacksmith, Florens’s current mistress Rebekka and Lina gave her “Sir’s” (Jacob’s, Florens’s master) boots. (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Florens is “hungry” for the Blacksmith and afraid that she will get lost. She describes her errand as frightening, but also... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...fears getting lost at night. But now that Florens has been ordered to seek the Blacksmith, she thinks she will succeed. She imagines being intimate with the Blacksmith. The possibility of... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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, because everyone on... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Florens asks if the Blacksmith remembers how Will and Scully would not take orders from him until Jacob forced them... (full context)
Chapter 3
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...returns to Florens’s perspective. She begins by describing how long it has been since the Blacksmith has gone—two seasons, plus part of a winter. In the winter, a disease shows up,... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...look at, even though it is not yet finished. She looks through the fence the Blacksmith made to see it. At the top of the iron gate, there are two figures... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...in her own mouth. She finds even more the next day. Now Rebekka wants the Blacksmith to come back to save her life. (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Florens thinks again of her intimacy with the Blacksmith, describing what it’s like to touch him. She discusses the first time she saw his... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Florens describes one time she took a candle at night to watch the Blacksmith sleep. She watched him for too long and the candle burned her hand. She promptly... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...wagon to pick Florens up, so she can begin her journey to go find the Blacksmith. As a boy drives past, he raises his hat to Florens. She is pleased. Florens... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...angry to find their cargo gone. Florens goes into the trees, feeling pulled toward the Blacksmith. She mentions the reason for her errand: the Blacksmith can heal Rebekka’s illness, so Florens... (full context)
Chapter 4
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
Lina also wonders why Rebekka sent Florens to find the Blacksmith rather than swallowing her pride and asking the Anabaptists for help. After all, Lina thinks,... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
The Blacksmith did not look at Florens, who was holding a milking stool and looking mesmerized. Though... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
During the meeting, the Blacksmith removed his hat and looked Rebekka in the eye, something that Lina has never seen... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...to die in it, per his final wish. Although Lina sees the iron gate the Blacksmith made as a complete waste of time, she admires how he saved Sorrow’s life. Lina... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...backfired. Rebekka is sick, Sorrow is pregnant, and Florens is lovestruck and running after the Blacksmith. (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...and knows that her own life depends on Rebekka’s, which depends on Florens finding the Blacksmith. (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...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 saw the potential danger... (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 him a piece. Lina thinks... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...on her own. Lina reassures herself that Florens has everything she needs to find the Blacksmith safely. She wonders, though, whether Florens will return, whether he finds him or not. (full context)
Chapter 5
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...remembers the wet ground on another night in the summer, when she was with the Blacksmith. She thinks of him telling her how he does his work and how much he... (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
Florens’s memories make her sad, so she thinks instead of the Blacksmith and her love for him. She says that when she’s with him she doesn’t need... (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
Florens remembers going to search for the Blacksmith after he finished making Jacob’s gate. She followed a path through the elm trees to... (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
...her that the world shapes people, and Florens did not understand Lina, thinking that the Blacksmith was the shaper of her whole world. (full context)
Chapter 6
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...God. Rebekka’s thoughts race as she wonders whether Florens will make it back with the Blacksmith in time to save her. (full context)
Chapter 7
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...boys on horses. Florens thinks of a time when she was having sex with the Blacksmith and he put a hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. Lina knew what... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...to tell her that she must be wary of men. She asked Florens if the Blacksmith planned to take Florens with him. Florens had not thought of this question, knowing that... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...her the right way to the village where Florens needs to go to find the Blacksmith. Florens thanks her, and Jane kisses Florens’s forehead. As Florens walks away, she turns back... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...legality of her presence. Florens thinks of her mother again. Then she thinks of the Blacksmith, anticipating the comfort and safety she will feel again when she is with him. (full context)
Chapter 8
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... (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... (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 a meadow listening to Twin tell her a story... (full context)
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
When Rebekka gets sick and sends Florens to find the Blacksmith, the Blacksmith returns alone. He asks how long Rebekka has been ill and enters Rebekka’s... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...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 answers, telling Lina... (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.... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...says nothing about the baby. Sorrow says to Rebekka that it was good that the Blacksmith came to heal her, and Rebekka chastises her, saying only God can cure. Each of... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Chapter 9 returns to Florens’s first-person narrative. Florens finally arrives on the Blacksmith’s property, smelling the fire and ash from his forge. When the Blacksmith sees her, Florens... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
The Blacksmith looks toward the doorway, where Florens sees a little boy holding a cornhusk doll. The... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
The thought worries Florens, and as she watches the boy hold onto the Blacksmith’s finger, she wonders if the boy, not her, is the Blacksmith’s future. The Blacksmith sends... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
When the Blacksmith leaves, Florens is calm, but she notices that the Blacksmith does not hug or kiss... (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
...silent. Florens thinks he hates her and wants her to leave. Florens worries that the Blacksmith will choose Malaik over her like her mother chose her little brother. (full context)
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
The next day the Blacksmith is still gone and Malaik and Florens stay far away from each other. Florens watches... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Motherhood, Heartbreak, and Salvation Theme Icon
Florens hears the Blacksmith outside. He rushes inside and shouts for Malaik. When the Blacksmith sees Malaik limp on... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
The Blacksmith slaps Florens and she curls up on the floor. She thinks that the Blacksmith has... (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
Florens begs him to let her explain, but the Blacksmith tells her she is a slave. Florens insists this is only because Jacob traded for... (full context)
Chapter 10
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...seems strangest of all to the men. She has become moody since returning from the Blacksmith’s farm, and when they first saw her, Florens seemed hardly like a “living person” to... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
...even more when Jacob decided to build his house. Willard helped as a laborer. The Blacksmith came to forge the fence, crafting a beautiful fence with decorations that first appeared to... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
Willard liked the Blacksmith until he realized that the Blacksmith was a free man getting paid for his work.... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Willard understands how the Blacksmith charmed Florens. He comments to Scully that he “never saw anything like it,” with Florens... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...to please, and tendency toward self-blame. However, Scully notices that since Florens returned from the Blacksmith’s cabin, none of these things are still true. After seeing her brush past them on... (full context)
Chapter 11
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
...11 returns to Florens’s perspective. She is walking alone through the night away from the Blacksmith’s house to the Vaarks’ farm. The trip is difficult without Jacob’s boots. Florens thinks that... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Florens thinks of how, after the Blacksmith rejected her, she tried to strike him with a hammer before he wrestled it away... (full context)
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Otherness Theme Icon
It has been three months since Florens ran away from the Blacksmith. Still, she keeps picturing their violent final encounter. At night Florens leaves Lina asleep to... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community Theme Icon
Florens thinks of how Lina tried to warn her about the Blacksmith. She thinks again of a time the Blacksmith told her that slaves are freer than... (full context)
Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity Theme Icon
...scratched in the wood. Although her arm aches, she keeps carving. Florens realizes that the Blacksmith will never read her words, since he cannot read. She hopes he will learn. She... (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
Florens thinks that the Blacksmith is correct, and there is something wild in her, but that she is also still... (full context)