ENGL 111: Third Mini-Collaboration

Riley Griffin

During the 2008 housing crisis, banks held worthless investments in subprime mortgages that cost many people their jobs, savings, and homes. Literature often allows people to reflect on how literacy and subsequent interpretations contribute to people’s expulsion. In The Big Short, readers learn about the economic side of the crisis through the explanation of how businesses and the stock market operate. People would sign mortgages without reading the fine print, which sometimes resulted in them facing expulsion all while Wall Street profited. The Turner House provides a more humanistic approach on the situation by showing readers how everyday people were affected by the crisis. Although Lelah gets expelled from her home after she gambles her money away, the Turner family face the possibility of losing their home on Yarrow Street because the mother, Viola, could not pay the mortgage and the value of their home dropped significantly due to the housing crisis. In both texts, people were unaware of the situation and the detrimental effects of the crisis until it was too late. Many people lost their homes, and their families were pushed to the breaking point. In A Mercy, Florens gets expelled numerous times, first from D’Ortega’s plantation and in the end from the Blacksmith’s life. While Florens was viewed as a keen observer, she was prevented from having the tools to read and interpret situations because of how she grew up and living in slavery.

Florens’s ability to read both print and pressure does not prevent her from experiencing expulsion throughout A Mercy. She does not receive the necessary knowledge to understand the world and situations around her. She has been held captive as a slave and understands very little of what life could be outside of captivity because slavery is all she knows. When her mother begs Jacob Vaark to take her, Florens feels abandoned even though her mother was trying to save her from facing the same abuse and rape that she has undergone. However, Florens can only see that her mother chose to send her away and to keep her brother. Florens’s inability to understand why her mother would send her away can be attributed to her unstable and poor childhood. Florens’s mother was never taught at the young age that Florens was. The only reason they learned was that the local Reverend chose to teach even though it was forbidden. Once every seven days Florens and her family learned to read and write thanks to the Reverend. Fortunately, Florens was a quick learner. She was much faster than her mother, and her baby brother was way too young (6). Florens said that “we have sticks to draw through sand, pebbles to shape words on smooth flat rock” (6). Florens had a better understanding of reading and writing than the rest of her family, but unlike her minha mãe, Florens did not have real life experience or knowledge. It is unfortunate that even at the end of A Mercy, the selfless motherly love goes unnoticed by Florens. 

At the end of the novel A Mercy, Florens returned to the Vaark farm after being expelled from the Blacksmith’s home and life. She accidentally broke Malaik’s arm, the Blacksmith’s adopted child, after she became too paranoid. As a result, the Blacksmith dismisses Florens’s apology and forces her to leave. During the dialogue between the Blacksmith and Florens in chapter 9, he tells her that she has become a true slave and says that her “head is empty” and her “body is wild” (166). The Blacksmith makes sure to tell Florens that she could have killed Malaik and that she is “nothing but wilderness” to emphasize her wild nature, isolation tendencies, and barrenness that connect to the wilderness. According to the blacksmith there is “no constraint” and “no mind” with Florens (166). After she returned to the Vaark farm, Florens spent every night carving words into the wooden walls of one of the rooms of the house as a means to explain her narrative. “There is no more room in this room. These words cover the floor” (188). Despite Florens’ hard work and skill, she still gets forcibly expelled. As Florens said “What I read or cipher is useless now. Heads of dogs, garden snakes, all that is pointless. But my way is clear after losing you who I am thinking always as my life and my security from harm, from any who look closely at me only to throw me away” (184). By the end of the novel, Florens came full circle with completing her long journey to the Blacksmith and back entirely barefoot. As a result, her emotional and mental state had been altered significantly due to the combination of the Blacksmith’s rejection of her and her own trauma surrounding abandonment. Florens is no longer the soft and trusting young woman that she once was. After going out into the real world, she gained more insight into the dangers of the world, but that could not stop her from getting expelled. 

When Florens asks the Blacksmith if he can read symbols in the first chapter of the novel, Morrison draws the reader’s attention to the fact that good reading is not a simple task. The emphasis on reading also highlights the link between slavery and suppressing literacy. Literature helps to expand people’s knowledge by opening them up to a wider range of emotions and diversifying the power of words. If people are comfortable reading and understanding, then those people will probably possess a voice to advocate for themselves. In the literature from class, the authors emphasize an understanding of the 2008 housing crisis and incorporate some ideals through their characters and the scenarios. In The Big Short, many CEOs on Wall Street used their power in bad faith to expel folks from their homes in order to gain a profit. Many people may observe what is surrounding them, but they may not necessarily be able to interpret the information or situation. While people should hold themselves accountable, other people who might hold greater wealth, status, influence, and knowledge should not take advantage of the less fortunate. People, therefore, need to be responsible and work in good faith to promote sustainability and community within society and develop strong literacy across all socio-economic levels.

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