A Mercy

In: English and Literature

Submitted By vidrakyu
Words 1038
Pages 5
A Mercy opens with Florens, a black slave, about sixteen years old, on a journey to visit the lover to whom she is addressing her thoughts and feelings. Florens is a literate slave, taught by a priest in defiance of the law. Florens recalls how she was given to her present master, Jacob Vaark, in partial settlement of a debt her prior master, a slave owner from the brutal Portuguese slave colony of Angola, owes to Vaark. Vaark is offered Florens and her mother, but her mother encourages Vaark to take only Florens because her mother is still nursing a baby boy. Florens, about eight years old when she is taken, recounts her shock, pain, and bitterness at this abandonment by her minha mae, “my mother” in Portuguese.

The second chapter, told by a third-person narrator who reveals Jacob’s thoughts and feelings, recounts Vaark’s journey to meet with D’Ortega and something of his story as an orphan and beneficiary of 120 acres in the New World. Vaark, a trader and businessman, has a soft spot for “orphans and strays.” He owns Lina (a Native American slave acquired after Lina’s tribe is nearly decimated by an epidemic of measles) and has taken in Sorrow (a half-drowned foundling girl) in another business deal. The reader gets some sense of the politics and prejudice of the period, learning of Vaark’s attitude toward the “popishness” of Catholic Maryland and its luxuries, built upon the free labor of slaves, in contrast to his simple life as a northern trader. Vaark comes away from his encounter with D’Ortega feeling he has bested him by getting even partial payment for the debt, but also envying D’Ortega his grand home, envisioning a mansion “rising on a hill above the fog.”

Florens continues her journey in the third chapter, telling her lover of the events of her household and of her desire for him, recalling watching him in his sleep—like a seventeenth-century Psyche…...

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