A Mercy mini-collaboration

Isabelle Hoff, Spencer Jurgielewicz, Abigail Kennedy, Ava McCann, Lucky Ni 

In 2008, the global market crash affected several people of different backgrounds. In particular those of certain socio-economic classes were hit harder than others, which included being expelled from their own homes and communities. Those with less information were impacted worse. This lack of information was due to various deceptions, and flat out lies, told by the government and private entities such as Wall Street and the Big Banks. This is not the first time we have seen deception being used at the disadvantage of others for financial gains. Many people lost their homes so that those in power had more land, which they could even sell. Mortgages could be bought and then sold, essentially financially ruining the innocent homeowner. One example goes back to Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House. Set post-World War II, Jim wants to buy a “fixer up” house in Connecticut to build his family’s dream home; however, over the course of the film it is shown that he is caught in a bunch of deceptions and basically clear-cut lies. For example, he pays 5x the going rate per acre. Being a New Yorker and seen as somebody gullible he is charged more simply for being viewed as an outsider. This is a bad faith action as the owner is taking advantage of him and his status to make fast money. After seeing the house, Jim learns he is in more trouble then he knew as the house would need to be torn down. The house would prove to have multiple issues that would only cost him more and more money. Even tearing the house down itself would have its own set of issues. They never received written permission to tear the house down, meaning the Blandings would have to pay the owner’s mortgage back in full. Jim and his family is an example of a privileged upper-middle class family; however, he is still taken advantage of due to where he is from. Certain elements such as status, race, and background might change overtime, but people will always seem to take advantage of those they can. This is seen in other examples as well with a more modern setting.

The Turner House and The Old Man and the Storm both highlight the struggles of individuals of the African-Amercian community being expelled and being caught up in deceptions from insurance companies, local and Federal governments, and even community members as large during harsh economic times either due to environmental factors or socio-political ones. In general, people were also told to trust CDOs and other loaners. They would have high ratings, despite the fact that they were not trustworthy. People would buy CDOs and take out loans that would end up costing them more money than they could ever gain. People worked hard, trying desperately to keep their homes, just like in the Old Man and the Storm, where Mr. Gettridge was desperately working to restore his family home. He did not want to be expelled from his home, and fought to keep it. In A Mercy, Florens does the very same thing; she fights and works for the perceived right to remain.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison is a story of a young enslaved girl who had been repeatedly expelled from many of the things she holds dear. Although Florens is a literate observer, the lack of information given to her created a situation in which she was then forcibly expelled. First, Florens was taken from her mother as a child due to her former master being in so much debt he is forced to give her as payment instead. Taken away from her family, she is forced to start over with a new group of people, new masters, and new surroundings. As time went on, her master, known as sir, passed away and his wife became very ill. Because of this, Florens was given a letter which allowed her to walk freely to the Blacksmith, with whom she was intimate with, in order to retrieve medicine to cure her. On her travels, Florens met a widow and her Daughter Jane. Florens learned that the town was trying to get rid of the two because they thought they were demons. However, Daughter Jane believes that some of the townspeople said she was a demon in order for the rest to expel them from their home. The widow and Daughter Jane speak together and say, “So I know it is Daughter Jane who says how can I prove I am not a demon and it is the Widow who says sssst it is they who will decide. Silence. Silence. Then back and forth they talk. It is the pasture they crave, Mother”(128). This is a prime example of the amount of deception and lies people are willing to do in order to get what they want, in this case, it is their land. This allows the reader to look back to the 2008 housing crisis and show the pressure people may have been under from the big banks and Wall Street. Florens experiences this deception throughout her relationship with the Blacksmith. The reader can see that Florens is very much so in love with the Blacksmith which seems to not be reciprocated as intensely. Throughout their relationship, the Blacksmith had used Florens feelings towards him in order for him to use her body. Lina, one of Florens friends, dislikes the Blacksmith and says, “‘You are one leaf on his tree,’ Florens shook her head, closed her eyes and replied, “No. I am his tree”(71). It is clear that Florens did not see or even want to see the truth that the Blacksmith was taking advantage of her and didn’t actually care for her. Florens was deceived, pressured, and felt lied to by him. By Florens not being able to recognise the signs in her relationship, she let down her guard and was hurt by him. 

In Toni Morison’s A Mercy, the first page of the passage says, “Another is can you read (3)? She was partially illiterate while a slave Florens is not speaking of a typical form of literacy but instead of the capacity to intercept signs and omens in the natural world. Florens lacks the maturity and experience necessary to exercise restraint in the face of irrational impulses and can’t recognize the potential harm her love for the Blacksmith could cause. Floren continues to be naive in many ways as she accepts the challenges life hands her without understanding why she is subjected to hardship and expulsion regularly. Throughout A Mercy, Morrison draws attention to Florens mother’s absence. Florens feel abandoned because she got abruptly taken away from her original plantation and mother. Florens and the reader can lack the needed framework to understand her mother’s absence without her mother’s point of view. However, readers eventually find out that Florens mother gave her to Jacob Vaark to keep her from being abused. Florens constantly feels her mother’s absence, but she lacks her mother’s perspective, which makes it difficult for her to understand her mother’s love “That is a better dream than a minha mae standing near with her little boy. In those dreams she is always wanting to tell me something. Is stretching her eyes. Is working her mouth. I look away from her” (119). Florens notices that a piece of her life is missing as the absence of her mother is emphasized 

For Florens, her work is for praise and a place to stay. Throughout the story she is constantly worried about not being enough for those around her. This as a result, made her easily open to being deceived. She is described as having a combination of  “defenselessness, eagerness to please and, most of all, a willingness to blame herself for the meanness of others” (179). Florens wants others to like her, for if she is useful and wanted, she will not be forced to leave. She works hard to be around those she loves, and to be what they want her to be. One of the biggest examples being the Blacksmith. When Florens first sees the Blacksmith she is enraptured by him. They spend many nights together, and she falls in love with him. Once he leaves she is consumed by the thought of him, and the fear of never seeing him again. When Rebekka gets sick and asks Florens to go retrieve the Blacksmith, it is no surprise that she jumps upon the opportunity to see him again, no matter the journey she must take she is committed to see him. Florens fights through several hardships on her way, but finally reaches the Blacksmith. In the Blacksmith’s home she reflects on the feelings of safety she has. “Here I am not the one to throw out…No one screams at the sight of me. No one watches my body for how it is unseemly. With you my body is pleasure is safe is belonging. I can never not have you have me” (161). Florens feels like a real person with the Blacksmith. She feels seen, heard, and wanted. These feelings are all Florens wants, and all that she feels she needs. However, the Blacksmith has a child under his care. Malaik, a foundling, is suspicious of Florens, who is entrusted to watch over him while the Blacksmith is away. Malaik reminds Florens of her mother and brother. Florens becomes increasingly paranoid that the Blacksmith will choose him over her, just like her mother. This paranoia boils until Florens ends up accidentally hurting Malaik in an effort to make him be quiet. The Blacksmith arrives at this moment and confronts her, eventually telling her to get out. Despite all of her efforts to be with the Blacksmith (traveling there, helping around the house while he is away, watching over Malaik), Florens is still expelled from his life. 

Another example of Florens being expelled despite her hard work is with Widow Ealing and daughter Jane. Florens had traveled for miles when she came upon the Widow’s home. The Widow took her in, fed her, and allowed her to stay with them. In return, Florens helped around the house, doing minor chores and the dishes. Despite the Ealing’s kindness, when Florens is discovered by the town people she is forced to flee. The people accuse her of being a devil, fearing her darker skin. They inspect her, and treat her with trepidation. When they read the letter carried by Florens, which declared her mission and was signed by Rebekka, they tried to claim that the Devil could write to deceive. Once they finally leave to pray about the letter, Widow Ealing leaves too. It is only Jane and Florens left in the house. Jane helps Florens prepare, and sends her out into the woods. Florens remarks “I walk alone except for the eyes that join me on my journey” (135). Once again she is forced to leave a place of relative safety for her. Despite her efforts to assure the others that she is just as human and good as they are, she is still treated as a devilish threat. Florens is expelled from the kindness of the Ealings, as even the Widow seemed to debate caring for her. Florens is never truly stable in one place, she is moved about from one home to the next. She tries to find her home in people, but due to circumstances, out of her control and in, she will never truly feel at home. This all ties into the concepts of expulsion and deception. She is extorted by numerous individuals either for personal financial gain or even just an idea of holding psychological control. This goes to show deception can come in many forms which Florens witnesses. 

Everyone is responsible, in both reality and in the novel. When it comes to blame, there is not one single person who can hold all of it. Tracing back to reality, those responsible go all the way back to our ancestors. Then to our teachers, family, peers, mentors, and ourselves. Each group has played a hand into what we learn and how we learned it. One non-human entity that is responsible is perhaps the system itself. While there is no legal or moral concept of “an enslaved person or persons” today in 21st century America. However, there are similar institutionalized applications that might keep people tied and or endebted to others. Deception is a way to potentially control peoples financial and social lives through loopholes, extortion, and lies. These all parallel times when slavery was legal going back to the 17th century and people would extort others and control aspects of their lives. Ultimately, Florens and those around her are responsible. Florens sought too hard for the wrong things. Mother worked to protect her, despite her message being lost to Florens. The Blacksmith led Florens on, and did nothing to explain things to her. Jacob and Rebekka did not put much care into teaching her. Lina tried to keep Florens safe no matter what. Sorrow, kept her distance. They all had parts to play in Flornes’ expulsion.

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