A Mercy Themes

A Mercy Themes

Worker Exploitation and Colonial Economics

A key theme at work in this historical fiction related to a historical slave revolt—Bacon’s Rebellion—is the essential necessity of horrendous exploitation of labor as key to creating the colonial economy and subsequent American economic foundation. The novel features not just slaves, but indentured servants in its indictment of the systemic bondage economy which becomes part of the whitewashing of American history. The economic exploitation is merely the surface level of oppression that is used to justify every other type that ultimately creates a systemic degradation of the human spirit not just within those being oppressed, but their oppressors as well. The novel reveals in a tangible way the connection between economic justification and immoral corruption of everyone taking advantage of that justification at all levels of society.

Patriarchal Oppression

The novel also paints a horrifying portrait of misogyny as a standard operating procedure in the building of early America as women are routinely treated as property, raped, assaulted, humiliated and denied anything even remotely close to equal rights. An example of just how pervasive and integrated into colonial society violence against women actually was, Morrison informs the leader that it had become institutionalized into the legal process with proscribed hours and reasons deemed “acceptable” for wife-beating so that it would not be committed as a criminal offense worth of prosecution.

Separation of Religion

No, not that kind of separation of religion; in fact, just the opposite is at work as religious beliefs, denominations, sects and theologies are the predominant mechanism for determining social class and drawing the lines of conflict between them. Colonial America is here represented as a less than thorough melting of a pot simmering with suspicion, mistrust and even outright aggressive antagonism between Catholics, various Protestant faiths and the pagan religions of the natives that all Christians have an eye toward converting. Standing in opposition to the European infighting among themselves who are all in agreement only on the subject of being utterly convinced their specific beliefs are the one true faith sit the indigenous tribes who view the newcomers with no distinction. Rather, for the pagans, the Europeans are all the same, equally capable of committing atrocities which belief all the minute differences the see in the god they all share.

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