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Chapter Ten: A Mercy and Abandoning Mothers
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“The plot, the lean plot, is information. This is what happened. But the meaning of a novel is in the structure …. We learn something today that clarifies something ten years ago. Or we think the most momentous thing that ever happened was something that happened yesterday or twenty years ago only to learn that it was part really of something else, or that it wasn’t momentous at all. So that the way in which the mind takes in the varieties of experiences of life and other people, has to be reassembled for its meaning and that’s where the structure, at least what I work very hard at, is the sort of deep structure, what is there underneath this activity. And then you see it from another person’s point of view; not just one character but another’s, and how and when that information becomes available to the reader seems to me to be the real adventure.” (Con II, 218–9).
By moving back to the seventeenth century for A Mercy, back to times when there was no automatic racial identity to slavery or indenture, Morrison tried to present a race-free canvas. Just as she had said emphatically (above) that “We don’t live lives in plots,” she had learned to avoid chronological schemes—so that once again the narrative of this novel draws on a number of seemingly different plotlines. There is, however, a central story—that of Florens, the Afric slave that Jacob...
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