Throughout A Mercy, Morrison brings up the concept of orphans, referring to many of her characters as such. As a child, Jacob was an orphan, making him especially sympathetic to other people who seem unmoored or lost. Lina and Sorrow are both orphans as well after their respective tragic youths. While Florens is not technically an orphan, she feels abandoned by her mother. When she appears at Widow Ealing’s door, the woman identifies Florens as an orphan, and Florens does not object.
The preponderance of orphans in the book serves as a thematic counterweight to the discussion of motherhood throughout Morrison’s novel. Moreover, the many orphans in A Mercy emphasize the possibly and necessity of alternative kinds of families. This necessity is the result of the systems of bondage that separate families, the high levels of death in the colonies, and the distance from parents in Europe or the Caribbean. Although orphanage is alienating and marginalizing for the characters who experience it, it also allows characters like Jacob, Lina, and Florens to form new relationships outside of traditional familial ones.
Orphans Quotes in A Mercy
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.