A Mercy: The Impact of Interpersonal Relationships on Female Identity Formation and Survival

By Fatma Taher.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The aim of this paper is to examine the psychological trauma of repression that women lived
at the infancy of the slave trade in the United States. It adopts a feminist approach as it examines how
far the notion of sisterhood, motherhood and mutual female support help solve female psychological
and social dilemmas, and how far it helps in their actualization and survival. Over the past two decades,
significant writings of precious women have emerged to challenge the status quo represented in previous
works where women are at the mercy of their society. Contemporary Literature, especially by Black
women writers exposes black women’s subordination within the nuclear family. It is the attempt to
centralize the female character within the deconstructed society that gives these contemporary writings
the unique impulse they enjoy. Of these Toni Morrison’s ‘A Mercy,’ published 2008 stands as an excellent
example. Morrison excavates into America’s history to the times when laws were passed that “separated
and protected all whites from all others forever.” Hence, she relates the very old past to the present, where
the idea of authority and domination is despised: “to be given domination over another is a hard thing;
to wrest domination over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked
thing.” The novel, critically received as a prequel of ‘Beloved’ is a reworking and reviving of the notion
of slavery. The four major female characters, a typical Toni Morrison group of “unmastered women,”
around whom the events revolve, emphasize a sort of equality based on suffering; slaves are white as well as
black, women of all races are at the mercy of men. All the four women are slaves in different ways.
It is through their interpersonal relationships that they seek “a way to be in the world.” Everyone in
the novel is damaged. They are all slaves, exhibiting varying degrees of freedom and dominion, and
they hold together for a while due to a range of conflicting motivations.

Keywords: Contemporary Literature, Feminist Studies, Post-colonial

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.17-30. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 941.136KB).

Dr. Fatma Taher

Assistant Professor of English Literature, English Department, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Translation, Misr University for Science and Technology, Cairo, Egypt

I started my career in 1989, at Cairo University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English as an English Language Instructor. Between 1991-1994 I got my M.A. in African Literature written in English, applying feminist theory on works by female and male authors. Between the years 2000-2004 I finished my PH.D in African American Literature, where upon I was promoted to the position of Assistant Professor. Throughout the past years I have had experience in teaching and researching at many Universities and educational Institutions between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. I have attended and participated in many International Conferences and symposia. I have also supervised many translations and contributed to many educational books.


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