Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity
A Mercy takes place during a time in American history when labor was being exploited throughout the colonies through various forms of human bondage. Morrison’s characters suffer under the variety of forms of bondage that were common in the late 17th century, from lifelong, hereditary chattel slavery (as in the case of first-generation slaves trafficked from Africa and their descendants) to indentured servitude, a system in which Europeans committed to a certain number of years…read analysis of Human Bondage, Wealth, and Humanity
The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community
Throughout A Mercy, Morrison describes and portrays the extremely common and disturbing violence that women face at the hands of men in 17th-century America. Over the course of the book, women characters suffer brutal beatings and sexual violence, which are in turn condoned by the male-dominated society.
Though Jacob does not beat Rebekka, Rebekka notes that wife beating is “common” in colonial America, but only legal before nine at night and “with cause…read analysis of The Oppression of Women, Violence, and Female Community
Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral
Throughout A Mercy, Morrison plays with the idea of the pastoral, or the use in literature of motifs and themes of idealized country and agricultural life. Pastorals recur throughout the English literary tradition, often to convey themes of innocence and romanticized views of hard labor.
Morrison connects her novel to the pastoral through her beautiful and striking descriptions of the early American landscape. Take, for example, Jacob’s ride through the Virginian wilderness to…read analysis of Land, Exploitation, and the American Pastoral
Religion, Morality, and Otherness
Throughout A Mercy, the white characters define the people living in North America in terms of their religion, separating them and stereotyping them by religious group. As characters draw their own social distinctions and outline the biases they associate with others, Morrison shows the North American landscape to be one peopled by a diverse array of religions. According to A Mercy, the religious makeup in the colonies is a rich mix of Protestant…read analysis of Religion, Morality, and Otherness