Faults with Perception

The way that A Mercy goes about how characters perceive things, often in ways that lack the “whole picture” is very interesting, and further illuminated by the narrative arc. Psychology suggests people seldom know the entire story, and their perceptions are inherently influenced by their worldview and the beliefs that they already hold. This is partially why people are susceptible to believing misinformation, especially information that aligns with the schemas and beliefs they already hold (Lewandowsky et. al,2010). In applying this idea of human psychology to the novel, that’s why a character’s character matters and really alters the framing of the world they’re in. The way that Morrison has each main character narrate, or control, part of their story I think really emphasizes this and shows how other’s perceptions can even begin to influence our own.

            I first began to think about this when I read Lina’s passage. My initial reaction to Lina was to like her, I saw her as strong willed, intelligent and caring (albeit somewhat harsh at times). While I still think most of these things of her character, it did not suffice to formulate my opinion only based on her telling. Lina, having taken Florens under her wing, was extremely opinionated in her decisions, especially when it came to the blacksmith because she did not trust him. She imposed this naivety to Florens that I probably would not have seen as much had Lina’s passage not been included. Having immediately taken to Florens, feeding, bathing and caring for her in a way that appeared to me as maternal, I think effected the way that Lina saw Florens and her ability to make safe decisions for herself. This struggle of perception, not having the full picture and imposing traits that she believed to be there in the people in her life is further expanded upon with Lina’s perception of Sorrow. Upon her first meeting of Sorrow, Lina immediately forms an opinion and sticks to her guns, so to speak. Not only failing to completely see Sorrow for the woman she is and everything she had been through but imposing those beliefs on the people around her as well. Sorrow’s narrative at the end of the book, where the reader learns about her past and what’s causing her to be so “mongrelized” as her first owners describe her, really shed light on how Lina’s narrative painted the wrong picture of her completely. Not having the “resources”, or the full picture, kept Lina from truly being able to understand Sorrow, not that she wanted to anyway, however. This opinion that Lina formed also causes Sorrow to be relatively expelled, in terms of relationships with other people on the farm, particularly Patrician and Florens.

            While the inability to perceive the whole picture is prevalent in all the character’s stories, I think it’s particularly interesting in Florens. Florens makes me think of trust in that it seems she has an abundance of it. Trust in Lina to take care of her, trust in the blacksmith to love her, and trust in the note her mistress wrote to grant her safe passage on her journey to the black smith. This prompt had originally made me think of an Arthur meme, where DW is looking at a sign and says “That sign can’t stop me because I can’t read”- which made me think of Florens. Not that Florens cannot actually read, but that she, like so many others, struggles to read peoples motivations and intentions, whether it be from not noticing enough, trusting too much or not being given the whole picture to be able to formulate fuller perceptions. For example, with the blacksmith, she sees their act of lovemaking and this physical relationship as grounds to believe that blacksmith truly cares for her, even despite Lina’s warnings. While she trusts Lina, she trusts her feelings wrong and consequently is heartbroken when the blacksmith rejects her, expelling her of some of the trust she had previously been full of. Also, in the first introduction to Florens, when her mother is seemingly begging Jacob Vaark to take Florens in his retelling of it, she only knows that her mother gave her away, making her believe that there was no love there. However, as we learn at the very end of the novel, her mother’s decision to give her up was her way of saving her daughter. So, while she was expelled from and by her mother, her lack of access to the truth expelled the belief that her mother loved her.

            I think that this is an interesting concept to apply to your own life as well. What may I be missing, or expelling myself from in not knowing everything I possibly could in a situation? I don’t believe there’s a need to get hung up on the nitty gritty details, for fear of doubting all the decisions I make, but I think it helps me to realize that my perceptions are not perfect and I am lucky enough to have ready access to education and information that can help to make my worldview a step closer to complete. The prompt is also reminiscent of the housing crash of 2008, in that many financial agents failed to notice just how drastic the effects of these subprime mortgage loans would be, leading to the expulsion of countless people.

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