On Structure and Interpretation

In class this week we discussed the interpretations made by characters within the text. While working in small groups on Wednesday, we tried to find instances wherein these interpretations were either supported or unsettled by the conclusion of the novel. As I was considering the implications of interpretation and misinterpretation, my thoughts began to steer towards the role that the structure of the novel plays in the unfolding of the readers’ own interpretations of the text. As Julie mentioned in her post, the novel is divided into chapters which belong to different characters. This division of chapters only lets the reader understand one slice of the story at a time. These glimpses into different characters’ perspectives reveals how each character understands their position and the position of others. By imposing blinders on readers, Morrison is compelling them to come to terms with their misinterpretations at the end of the novel.

The structure of A Mercy is what drives forward the idea of the fallibility of interpretation. Perhaps more important than drawing connections between each character’s chapter, is recognizing where gaps exist between the chapters, and how they do not fit together.Also notable, it seems as though with each new chapter unfolding, instead of more information being revealed, more gaps are being created. Perhaps this dissonance is meant to make readers become more aware of where they are making assumptions or drawing conclusions.

Lastly, I would be remiss to not mention that there is a conspicuous absence of a chapter told from the perspective of the blacksmith. By the conclusion of the novel, readers still only understand the blacksmith through the lens of other characters. And each of these characters seem to have a different interpretation of the blacksmith (Lina finds him meddlesome and untrustworthy, while Florens is in love with him). All we are left with is our own interpretation. But, I would argue, Morrison is imploring readers to consider their interpretation of his character, and understand that interpretation is fallible, for better or worse.

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