Jacob’s Unfinished Business

Almost immediately after today’s class concluded, Rachel asked me what I thought it meant that Jacob was never able to finish his house on the hills and what possible implications that this may have forged for the rest of the characters in the novel.  I did not have a fully formulated answer for her right then and there, but this was something I wanted to explore on a deeper level and delve back into on this forum.

To be honest, before today’s class I was not thinking much about Jacob, since at this point he had been dead for several chapters and especially because so many other voices were now being pulled into the spotlight. Dr. Beth’s question regarding our perceptions of similarities/dissimilarities of characters/’things’ and how they may have changed by the time we completed reading A Mercy did however bring my focus back to Jacob and how our initial readings of him may have been skewed.

I think it is safe to say that most of us, when first reading from Jacob’s perspective, wanted to believe that he was overall a stand-out male character with a moral compass we could all try to contextualize into a modern day viewpoint on slavery and other virtues. It was quickly revealed, however that Jacob fell susceptible to the same materialistic tendencies and desires that he so vehemently despised of D’Ortega.  This was evidenced throughout his acceptance of Florens for payment for the debt D’Ortega owed him, as well as his vibrant dreams of a grand house on the hills.

Within the process of constructing this elaborate home, as well as through Jacob’s failure to fully complete it, disastrous consequences erupted for many other sequences in the book.  It is told to us that Jacob and Rebekka’s only child who survived past infancy, Patrician, was killed with a swift kick to the head by a horse.  It is quite possible that if massive horse-fueled construction was not occurring in close proximity to the young child, Patrician may have not been killed, and thus the Vaarks may have not lost their only tie to an heir. It is also very possible that Jacob may not have even accepted Florens as payment for D’Ortega’s debt if he did not think that having a young girl around the house would please his grieving, childless wife. By losing Patrician, Jacob and Rebekka lost the opportunity to make something of the small estate (and the still under construction house on the hill) that they had gathered, and thus put Lina, Florens, and Sorrow in the horrifying positions of being illegal, immobile, and lost without an heir to inherit the property and keep them after Jacob died and Rebekka’s death seemed to be in the near future.

Whilst so much of this is merely speculation as to what could have happened, I believe that Jacob not finishing his house on the hill affected so much of the plot of the novel and was really integral to how so much of this book was set into motion.

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