A Mercy | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Course Hero. "A Mercy Study Guide." October 4, 2019. Accessed December 1, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Mercy/.


Course Hero, "A Mercy Study Guide," October 4, 2019, accessed December 1, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Mercy/.



Toni Morrison

Year Published





Historical Fiction

Perspective and Narrator

A Mercy switches back and forth between first-person perspective and third-person limited perspective. For all but the final chapter, the first-person narrator is Florens, a young slave girl who is writing her story on the floors of the Vaarks' empty house. The final chapter's narrator is Florens's mother, who attempts to explain why she offered up Florens to be sold. The third-person narrator tells the story of the Vaarks as well as Lina, Sorrow, and Florens.


The novel shifts between the present and the past tense, depending on who is narrating. The first-person narration of Florens and her mother is told in the present tense. The omniscient third-person narrator shifts to the past tense when describing the different characters' stories.

About the Title

A Mercy refers to a moment in the novel in which Florens's mother addresses her to explain why she offered Florens to be sold to Jacob Vaark. Florens's mother tells her it wasn't a miracle that Jacob Vaark took her, but rather "it was a mercy." By this, Florens's mother means that had Florens stayed, bad things would have happened to her as a slave. Jacob will treat Florens more humanely, and her mother sees that as a mercy.


This study guide for Toni Morrison's A Mercy offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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