A Mercy Essay

Although some think material wealth to symbolize ones worth, no financial measure can express the value of personal integrity when an individual encounters moral changes. In Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, the author explores this concept through the character and behavior of Jacob Vaark, a white famer attempting to make a life in the new world. Initially repulsed by the slave trade, he comes to ‘own’ Florens, a fourteen year-old girl given to Vaark by the affluent D’Ortega to repay a debt. This ‘payment’ marks the beginning of Vaark’s spiral from modest sustenance farmer to obsessed, vain landowner who destroys himself and his legacy. Consumed with building an extravagant mansion as a monument to himself, Vaark loses his moral clarity and becomes an amoral consumer like D’Ortega. His pursuit of these material goods drives him to his death, in turn causing pain for his loved ones that he leaves behind to now fend for themselves. Vaark enters his meeting with D’Ortega as a humble, self-sufficient farmer who was repulsed by those involved with the slave trade, however he leaves the meeting with a slave of his own, now seemingly not much different to D’Ortega than previously presumed. In his visit to settle a debt with D’Ortega, Vaark’s “seeded resentment now bloomed” (19). He then questions himself, “why such a show on a sleepy afternoon for a single guest well below their station? Intentional (Vaark) decided; a stage performance to humiliate him into groveling acceptance of
D’Ortega’s wishes” (19). Vaark begins to understand that D’Ortega uses the extravagance of the afternoon to confirm his high social status. With this distain for D’Ortega and everything he represents, Vaark commits to displaying his unwavering integrity, a characteristic evidently absent in D’Ortega. Vaark pledges not to acquiesce to D’Ortega’s ways, and yet he becomes D’Otega’s equal if not worse. He says to himself, “where else could rank tremble before courage?” (29). He proceeds to…