A Mercy Literary Elements

A Mercy Literary Elements


Historical fiction

Setting and Context

The action in the novel takes place sometimes at the end of the 17th century in America.

Narrator and Point of View

There are multiple points of view and narrators in the novel, changing from one chapter to another. One of the narrators is Florens who presents the events from a first-person point of view and has a subjective perspective. There is also a third-person narrator who narrates the events from an objective point of view.

Tone and Mood

Tragic, violent, hateful

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists are Lina, Sorrow, and Florens and the antagonists are the free men who abuse them and who take advantage of them.

Major Conflict

Since the novel is presented from multiple points of view, there are multiple conflicts as well. One of the conflicts is an internal one and is the result of Florens’s love for the Blacksmith and her desire to be seen as a woman and as a free person.


The story reaches its climax when Florens loses her shoes and when she realizes that the Blacksmith does not love her.


In chapter 2, Jacob visits the plantation of D’Ortega and there he sees the mansion D’Ortega build for himself. The obsessive way in which Jacob inspects the mansion foreshadows his later decision to build one for himself as well.


After returning to Rebekka’s farm, Florens made a habit out of spending her nights in the house built by Jacob and carving words into the wood. Florens claims that she carved those words for the Blacksmith but this is an understatement as Florens later realizes that the Blacksmith will not be able to read those words as he does not know how to read.


The characters in the novel are not free in the real sense of the word and they are all slaves to one thing or another. Through the characters, it is alluded that being a slave, does not always mean being owned by someone. The Blacksmith for example claims that Florens is a slave because she is unable to think for herself. The Blacksmith claims that no one is born a slave, but that a person choses to become one through their behavior and manner. Lina is another character who is a slave to her own fears and because of them, she is unable to fully live her life. Her fear makes her want to stop others from living their lives as well since she is afraid that they will end up just like her. Through these examples, it is implied that being a slave does not have to mean that a person needs to be bought with money, but that a person can also be a slave to their own fears and limitations they imposed on themselves.


An important image is presented in the chapter where Florens loses her shoes. From that point on, her feet start to resemble the feet of a normal slave, harsh, dirty and full of blisters. Up until that point, Florens’s feet were dainty and did not resembled a slave’s feet. The image of Florens’s feet is important because it marks the point where Florens loses the innocence and realizes her place in the world.




The narrator draws in the second chapter a parallel between a common slave and an animal beaten by its master. The narrator points out that the two have many things in common and that both the animal and the slave seem to be unwilling to protest the way their master treats them. The parallelism also has the purpose of showing that for the slave owners, a slave was just as important as an animal.

Metonymy and Synecdoche




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