The Key Tool: Perspective Exposure

            The concept of perspective makes itself a known theme, central idea, and notable literary choice on Morrison’s part within A Mercy. As each chapter presents us with a new viewpoint, we as readers are given the privilege to see a story unfold in a way we don’t normally watch events occur in “real life;” through the viewpoints of all those that are affected. It seems with a broader perspective of the world, and of a story that you are reading and or partaking in allows you to develop a greater sense of empathy. It then also seems when you limit your perspective or ability to understand others roles within an event, you ultimately limit yourself. To put this in terms of the 2008 housing crisis (the year in which A Mercy was written, and a key event to tie our course concepts back to) we can look at the relationship between bankers and everyday people. The banker’s decisions obviously expelled many people from their houses due to their selfish decisions. Those being affected by these decisions may have read or interpreted what would happen in this situation but did not have the tools to go about stopping it from happening. The ultimate root of this is the big bankers having the ability and tools to see how painful the negative effects of their actions would be on so many people, but ultimately neglecting to see things from a “big picture standpoint.” It seems that Morrison decided to make perspective and the theme of “noticing things” so prominent in this novel to drive home that exact point, and all the negativity that comes from it.

            A side note to relate this back to present day, and the current unprecedented circumstances we are all experiencing right now, I wanted to include a link to this article. It focuses on social distancing, and how so many people still aren’t taking it seriously. We need to realize it is a privilege, and by neglecting to take it seriously, we, like the big bankers, are viewing this situation with a “well if it doesn’t negatively affect me, then why should I care how it affects others” kind of outlook. Morrison displays acts of this kind of attitude within the novel, but also shows acts of great contrast as well. However, these selfless acts we sometimes don’t see unfold until one perspective is connected to another.

            An example of such is one that we as readers can only see unfold once we have read the novel from beginning to end. This example is when Florens is given up by her mother. In the very beginning of the novel, when Jacob Vaark visits D’Ortega and makes that reluctant purchase of Florens we are led to believe that her mother is so readily willing to give her up. “Please Senhor, not me, take my daughter” (Morrison, 30). Yet, to contrast this, we see that this seemingly “unmotherly” act of giving up her daughter to be taken away with a strange man was actually an act done out of love. “I knew Senhor would not allow it. I said you. Take you, my daughter. Because I saw the tall man see you as a human child, not pieces of eight. I knelt before him. Hoping for a miracle” (Morrison, 195). This is an act of expulsion Florens faces as she’s forced from her home and her family. It’s an event that we as readers didn’t have the tools (yet) to see the true explanation behind the expulsion. These lack of “tools” come from a lack of exposure to various perspectives, which ultimately intertwine to form a complete story.

            If we are to look at characters lacking tools to act on things they notice, it again deals with the concept of perspective. It seemed that throughout the book, Complete was in a whirlwind of confusion about so many things going on in her life; whether it be her lack of knowledge about what a period was, or her inability to figure out why Lina treated her the way that she did. However, the scene in which Complete gives birth proves to be a very powerful one; she decides her own identity and her own personal perspective develops itself. She lets go of this need for approval form Lina, or this feeling that Florens is the glue that keeps this odd structural dynamic between them all, together. “Each woman embargoed herself; spun her own web of thoughts unavailable to anyone else. It was as though, with or without Florens, they were falling away from one another” (Morrison, 158). She allows herself to be alone in that very moment and allows the trust she has within herself to blossom. In this case, we watch Complete take all the things that she noticed around her, that dragged her down as a person and made her feel like she was something “lesser-than.” Her “tool” in this case is expulsion; the expulsion of an outdated view she has of herself, and a rebirth of a new and personal perspective she has of herself and the world around her.  

            It seems that Morrison purposefully made expulsion, observation, and perspective key elements within this novel. She uses perspective changes to display how it is one of the true tools to accessing a full story; a full understanding of each and every person’s role in a story that so many may have taken a part in. But what’s interesting is that she displays to us that through perspective building expulsion is almost guaranteed; yet it’s a positively connotated form of expulsion as it acts as an elimination of ignorance and self-doubt. Through a lack of perspective exposure, comes expulsion as well; yet it’s more negatively connotated. It leads to the expulsion of people from your life, form their homes, and even of their own positive image of self; it is an act developed from holding on to ignorance rather than letting go.

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