Aesop, a renowned Greek fabulist and story teller once said that “every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either” Here he is trying to say that before we judge or lean towards one side of a story, we should always be aware of the other. I believe Toni Morrison is trying to prove this point in her novel a mercy by depicting her story from the perspectives of various characters in the book. In doing this, the reader quickly learns to look at all sides of a story before jumping to false conclusions.
In her novel, a mercy, Toni Morrison takes the reader into the minds of the characters Lina and Sorrow in order to demonstrate the importance of looking at all sides of a story before we commit ourselves to either one. Morrison first manifests her point of evaluating all sides of a story when she displays the indifference’s between Lina, a responsible and trusted slave, and Sorrow, a mysterious slave found washed up on the side of a river.
Morrison begins her manipulation of perspective by creating Lina as a character the reader could trust. She is intelligent, hardworking and respected by the Mistress; Morrison leaves no reason not to follow Lina’s opinions. Therefore, although Sorrow had been brought up various instances in the novel, when Morrison plants negative views toward Sorrow through the mind of Lina, the reader too begins to grow an abhorrence towards her.
Lina’s hatred towards Sorrow is blatantly demonstrated through her first description of her, where she portrays her with “Red hair, black teeth, recurring neck boils and a look in those over lashed silver-gray eyes that raised Lina’s nape hair”(p 59) Morrison then ignites the readers flame towards Sorrow when she describes the story of her past through Lina’s perspective, where Sorrow is depicted as a lying, good for nothing, strange girl who has no memory of her past life besides being dragged ashore by whales. Morrison especially concerns the reader when Sorrow is described as bad luck in the flesh”(p 63) who “dragged misery like a tail”(p 65) She backs this view up by blaming several of the Mistress’ tragic accidents on Sorrow, stating that she was “sure that the early deaths of the Mistress’ sons could be placed at the feet of the natural curse that was Sorrow”(p 65) Morrison very blatantly, by handing us a plethora of negative opinions towards Sorrow through Lina’s perspective, develops a strong hatred and distrust towards her in the readers mind, however, they are in for a rude awakening.
Morrison provides a false foundation for the reader through the perspective of Lina in the novel however, later on shocks them by quickly revealing the reality of Sorrows perplexing nature from her own point of view. By building a quick and easy abhorrence toward Sorrow, Morrison easily uses these emotions to turn the reader besides themselves. Once Sorrow begins talking, the reader immediately evokes their previous emotions towards her, but they quickly realize that they had led themselves to false accusations. Sorrows story begins on the ship where she had been living her whole life.
After being drugged by a doctor who was to remove her “recurring neck boils”, the same ones that Lina made out to be an evil trait, she awakened to a raided, vacant boat and everyone Sorrow knew had been taken or killed. After rummaging many nights alone on the ship, Sorrow was soon accompanied by an imaginary friend named Twin, who would stage as “her safety, her entertainment, her guide” Twin was everything to Sorrow, therefore, when she escaped the ship and washed up on the Sawyers land, she listened to Twin when she was told to lie about where she came from.
Sorrow’s explained her careless work and wandering as reasons to go and play with Twin, who brought her comfort. Morrison continued to drill into the reader the reality of Sorrows misbehavior, in order to make them aware of the misunderstanding they had made, and to fill them with new emotions of empathy and pity towards her. Morrison builds up the readers anger towards Sorrow, in order to truly awaken them when the reality is revealed and they realize that Sorrow is only an innocent, scarred, young girl who strives for safety and guidance.
Through galvanizing the reader with a the truth about Sorrow, Morrison crudely teaches them that you should always assess every side of a story before jumping to false conclusions. There is no doubt that through planting a hatred of Sorrow early on in the book she was setting them up for the tough reality that Sorrow was in fact the opposite of what they accused her of being.
Through Lina’s perspective the reader views Sorrow as a lazy, good for nothing, evil presence when in truth she was nothing but a young girl with a wondering imagination. By revealing this to the reader, Morrison crudely stirs up feelings of pity and empathy in them to blatantly display the mistake they had made. Never stick to one side of a story, because you never know what the others hold.