Historical Novel: “A Mercy”

The goal of this assignment is to produce a well-researched analysis of the historical novel, “A Mercy.”

This is NOT a book review. Avoid irrelevant plot summaries. Base your paper on specifics from the book, using other sources to support your written analysis.

Your paper needs to address the following five (5) questions:

1) Jacob Vaark criticizes the way others treat slaves, yet he owns slaves himself. Describe the various forms of slavery portrayed in the novel and explain which aspects of these portrayals seem accurate or inaccurate, according to your sources. Do you think Jacob Vaark is admirable? Why or why not?

2) Explain how the Vaark farm’s economic and social position changes through interaction with the outside world. Does this seem accurate for the economic and social history of that time and place, according to your sources? Which of Jacob’s actions affect the economic security of his farm, for better or worse?

3) Describe the positions of the female characters (Florens, Rebekkah, Lina, Sorrow, and Florens’ mother) and explain whether these portrayals seem accurate, according to your sources. Does the ending change your opinion of Floren’s mother? Explain.

4) Which aspects of this story make the book useful as a supplement to the study of American social history? Use sources to support your answer.

5) Defend or refute the following statement: Putting some of the obvious fictional aspects aside, A Mercy presents a believable and compelling view of American history. Support with sources.


Historical Novel: "A Mercy"