The Expulsion of Ignorance

Throughout the works we’ve read in this course, there have been many people expelled from their homes for a variety of reasons. However, an underlying force behind the majority of these expulsions can be tied to a lack of knowledge held from a person or group of people and this lack of awareness can affect how we interpret what we do have. Ignorance, willful or otherwise, is a major force in expulsion and one that A Mercy perpetuates through the relationship between the characters and the relationship between the readers and the characters as well. 

           A Mercy is written through a series of narratives from different characters, each chapter telling a story while giving the readers an insight on a situation or person from another perspective. There are several relationships between the characters that have led to expulsion and the root cause being ignorance. One of these relationships is the guardian like relationship between Lina and Florens. “When Lina tried to enlighten her, saying, ‘You are one leaf on his tree,’ Florens shook her head, closed her eyes and replied, ‘No. I am his tree’” (71). From Lina’s point of view, there is a trust in her life experience and her precautions against the Blacksmith seem reasonable coming from a caring guardian. Florens looks to Lina in times of need yet refuses to believe anything that goes against how she feels about the Blacksmith. Florens lacks the tools of experience and maturity that are needed to show restraint against infatuated impulses and cannot see her love for the Blacksmith as possibly destructive. Florens is still naive in many ways and places her freedom in a person, the Blacksmith becomes her world: “There is only you. Nothing outside of you” (44). However, this tunnel vision that Florens has that doesn’t allow her to see beyond the Blacksmith ends up hurting her in the end when she gets jealous of the child. Florens’s presumed abandonment by her mother has almost given her the wrong tools of interpretation. Her childhood doesn’t allow her to see past his love for the child rather than love for a woman and becomes, like a child, jealous of the attention shown to Malaik. This causes her to respond roughly to Malaik and the Blacksmith reprimands Florens for lack of awareness saying, “Your head is empty and your body is wild” (166). The Blacksmith then expels Florens and throughout this course, we’ve seen this type of expulsion from lack of knowledge many times. The Big Short was structured similarly with different chapters containing an aspect of the story through a different person’s eyes. Although they are real people and not character, we see how harmful ignorance can be in The Big Short as no one making the important decisions seem to know not only what they are doing but what the consequences will be as well. Both intentional and unintentional ignorance ends up expelling hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. In King Lear, we built our argument on this lack of awareness on trust. For example, Edgar’s trust for Edmund leads to his expulsion, but he trusts Edmund because he is unaware of Edmund’s true motives. Edgar knows of his illegitimate brother’s status and how this will affect Edmund’s future, but Edgar is unable to see Edmund’s greed or jealousy and is, therefore, able to trust him. In A Mercy, however, Morrison continues to demonstrate how a lack of knowledge and the tools to understand what knowledge is given through the relationship when builds between the characters and the readers.

           The readers gain knowledge and tools they are fortunate to see from the different perspectives of the characters, but some of these tools of interpretation to understand what is being read is only given near the end of the novel. The readers are led to interpret the knowledge gained from chapters of Lina’s perspective that Sorrow is a bad person. It isn’t until further along in the novel that Morrison gives the readers Sorrow’s perspective and in seeing both sides, the readers learn the truth. This lack of Sorrow’s truth, however, allows Lina to successfully expel her until then. The most prominent example from the novel, however, of lack of knowledge between the reader and character’s relationship resulting in expulsion is that between Florens and her mother. Both the readers and Florens, through Florens’s perspective, interpret the knowledge the readers are given as abandonment. This abandonment is the driving force behind Florens’s negative feelings that lead to her expulsion from the Blacksmith. She frequently sees her mother in her mind, appearing as if to want to talk to her: “A minha mãe leans at the door holding her little boy’s hand…As always she is trying to tell me something” (161). At first, the readers may interpret this as Florens missing her mother and the imagery of seeing her with her son only increases the feeling of betrayal. Unfortunately, only the readers are given the knowledge that allows for the correct interpretation of what happened. The last chapter is dedicated to Florens’s mother and the truth behind her giving up Florens. The readers are then given the tools, the truth, and when Florens sees her mother trying to tell her something, the readers know that she is trying to tell her the truth: “In the dust where my heart will remain each night and every day until you understand what I know and long to tell you” (195). Florens doesn’t and may never have the tools to interpret her mother’s abandonment of her as a mercy.

           Ignorance is never truly bliss; it is a limitation on the achievement of happiness. People are often tempted to be content with their current situation in life, and I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong in that. It is, however, important to not limit ourselves in learning so that we may not be willingly ignorant. It’s easy to believe the first thing said on the news or the first post on a social media account, but it’s an active decision whether or not to educate ourselves further on the authenticity of these things or to accept them point-blank. If people remain in a bubble concerning the surrounding environment then they end up expelling themselves from that environment, shelter like Florens from the truth. I hope that people continue to strive for knowledge concerning themselves and the world around them. I truly believe what Florens’s mother says is true, “there is magic in learning” (191).

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