Jacob Vaark in a Mercy Essay example

1296 Words Jan 17th, 2013 6 Pages
Although some consider material wealth to represent one’s worth, no financial measure can express the value of personal integrity when an individual encounters moral challenges. In Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, the author explores this concept through the behavior and character of Jacob Vaark, a white farmer trying to make a living in the New World. Initially committed to avoiding slave trade, he involves himself by accepting Florens, a fourteen year-old, from the affluent D’Ortega to repay a debt. This decision begins his spiral from modest sustenance farmer to obsessed, narcissistic landowner who then destroys himself and his legacy. Consumed with building a mansion as a monument to him, Vaark loses his path and his moral clarity and …show more content…
Vaark can use his courage and wit to show D’Ortega that he does not fear him. Instead, Vaark feels contempt for D’Ortega and the slave business and he embarrasses D’Ortega by turning his back on him. Vaark uses this humiliation to inflate his opinion of himself even more. But even with such great disrespect for D’Ortega and his ownership of slaves, Vaark eventually sinks to his level by accepting a slave in payment of a debt Vaark rationalizes accepting Florens by believing that she will help his wife cope with the death of their child, Patrician. He says, “…perhaps Rebekka would welcome a child around the place… if she got kicked in the head by a mare, the loss would not rock Rebekka so” (30). Vaark uses the death of his child as an excuse for taking Florens as currency. He wants to think that taking her is an act of altruism, not an act of greed. He uses Florens to acquire as much wealth as D’Ortega and to justify his inflated opinion of himself. Accepting Florens solidifies Vaark’s devolution from modest, unassuming farmer to covetous, slave owning man. Vaark tries to use the house as a testament to himself and as his legacy, but ends up destroying himself and his living legacy simply by constructing the mansion. He decides to build the mansion after the meeting with D’Ortega, where he recognizes the fact that “only things, not bloodlines or character, separated [Vaark and D’Ortega]” (31). Vaark’s

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