Reading Group: A Mercy

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Reading Group: A Mercy

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Dec 30, 2008, 9:30 pm

Welcome! We'll discuss Toni Morrison's latest work A Mercy.
Discussion questions will mainly come from however other questions are appreciated.
You're welcome to join and discuss as you please. We'll discuss 1-2 questions per week and have a goal of reading in 8 weeks! If your post could potentially cover key elements to the plot please let us know with a spoiler alert so that everyone can read at their own pace.

Dec 30, 2008, 9:39 pm

1. Florens addresses her story to the blacksmith she loves and writes: "You can think what I tell you a confession, if you like, but one full of curiosities familiar only in dreams and during those moments when a dog's profile plays in the steam of a kettle" (page 3). In what sense is her story a confession? What are the dreamlike "curiosities" it is filled with?

Jan 2, 2009, 1:37 pm

I am about half way the book and find it too early to answer the question yet; but I am appreciating the book more and more. In the beginning I didn't find it easy, with a different storyteller in every chapter. Or perhaps the holiday period was not the ideal time to concentrate. What do others experience, while reading?

Jan 5, 2009, 6:44 pm

For me it took a while to get used to the voices of the characters as they change often and have different speaking styles. Near the middle of the book I was able to recognize them a bit better and began to enjoy discovering the story from different perspectives. Once I got to the end I went back to re-read of few of the beginning chapters. Voice seems to be important here, particularly since the majority of characters are women who in that time did not have a voice.

Jan 6, 2009, 9:14 am

It is too early for me to try to answer the question above. I am only a few chapters into the book, reading it slowly, trying to take in the detailed descriptions the different voices use to tell their story. So far, I am very fascinated by how different the caracters live their lives and try to get to know them individually. I love the language and use a lot of time with my dictionary.

Edited: Jan 6, 2009, 3:23 pm

(Key elements of the plot below!)

I have started rereading the book. I must say that this time I understand it much better, since I now "know" who is telling, and who the others are. And I therefore enjoy it more than the first time. As for the first question, here is my first attempt.

Florens says that a confession is never a written text (this is one of the things she learnt from the catholic priest). Therefore her "written story" cannot be a "real confession". That it is a written story, we learn at the beginning of the book, when she mentions this herself. But also at the end, when we really see what place Florens is writing on. At the same time, it is a kind of confession in a way that she describes what she feels for the blacksmith, what she has done to him (although even at the end of the book if I am not mistaken, we do not know what exactly happened, only that there was "blood") and more important, how she came to this. A confession implies a feeling of guilt (I think) and as far as I can see, Florens does not feel guilty. So yes, it is a confession, and no, it isn't.

Dreamlike curiosities seem (but I don't know whether this is true) to show something of the way Florens sees the world. She knows how to write, but it is clear that it is a kind of simple, though beautiful and poetic, language that she has learnt. This must in some way influence her way of observing. Besides that her love for the blacksmith colours her experiences. If we listen to Lina, it clouds Florens' clear view. Perhaps this explains the dreamlike curiosities, but I have the impression that I will learn more about this, once I have read the whole book a second time.

Jan 18, 2009, 10:57 am


brusselsbook, I think you are right in your interpretation of Floren's 'confession'. She is not at all remorseful instead she is shocked when the blacksmith does not help shape her dream and does not return her sentiments. The dreamlike curiosities are what compelled her to leave to find him and instead of embracing her, he says that she has become a slave. What I found interesting was that his reaction did not seem to stop her curiosities and her poetic ways of telling and seeing the world. She writes "careful words, closed up and wide open", she is defiant and she is free (p.161).

What struck me in addition to Floren's confession (or lack thereof) and her dreamlike curiosities is how Lina seems to be the complete opposite. It seems that she sees things clearly. She doesn't talk in the poetic language of Florens and she constantly reminds her and cautions her against things, especially the blacksmith. Lina tells Florens: we never shape the world, the world shapes us. To what extent do the girls' backgrounds and experiences influence the way they view their worlds?

Jan 25, 2009, 8:54 am

What does A Mercy reveal about Colonial America that is startling and new? In what ways does Morrison give this period in our history an emotional depth that cannot be found in text books?

Feb 25, 2009, 2:19 pm

Dear noodlejet22, sorry that I have been silent for so long, I am still reading the book, but the last few weeks were extremely busy. I hope to post a message soon!

Mar 2, 2009, 7:47 am

Not a problem at all, take your time

Oct 10, 2014, 11:21 am

I am in the process of reading this text and I am finding the beginning difficult to get through