Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Club: March

The book for the month of March was Toni Morrison’s A Mercy. Having previously done papers on Morrison, I knew some of her themes in literature but hadn’t actually had the pleasure of reading her novels yet. A Mercy is well known, but not as popular as Beloved.

(via Wikipedia)

The novel has a collection of characters who each get turns narrating their own stories and reacting to the stories of the other characters. The characters include a Caucasian husband and wife, their Native American servant girl, their Irish servant girl, and their African American servant girl. Race relations in America had not yet reached their harshest, but each man and woman in the story, either free or enslaved, is under some type of slavery. Slavery to money, to hormones, to religion, or to free will, each character has some internal struggle that they are trying to get through, as well as the small pox plague making its way through America.

The central character of the story is Florens, the young African American servant girl to the white couple. Having been given away to them by her mother at a young age, she always harbored resentment towards her mother for that choice. Florens makes hasty decisions in her life that stem from the desire to be wanted. These backfire at times and eventually the reader gets the perspective of the mother, explaining that she did what she could to help her child.

Morrison flows easily through the chapters as she switches characters and style to fit their education levels. The words flow almost more like poetry than paragraphs, and this novel is proof why Morrison is heralded for her writing style.

Several quotes I appreciated:

“The young body speaking in its only language its sole reason for life on earth.” pg. 70

“We never shape the world she says. The world shapes us.” pg. 83

“Those women seemed flat to her, convinced they were innocent and therefore free; safe because churched; tough because still alive.” pg. 108

“To be female in this place is to be an open wound that cannot heal.” pg. 191

“It was not a miracle. Bestowed by God. It was a mercy. Offered by a human.” pg. 195

“to be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion over yourself to another is a wicked thing.” pg. 196

The story makes one wonder how we are all slaves to something in our lives. Wealth, beauty, education, sex, pop culture, social media, etc. etc. etc. And in other parts of the world, people are still enslaved in the more traditional sense. Poverty, labor, sex trade. We need to break free, and change what we can for the better, while we still have time.