The Witch of Blackbird Pond
by Elizabeth George Speare
Mercy is the sister of Judith and the daughter of Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matthew. She is a sweet and sympathetic person with a set of beautiful eyes – “gray as rain at sea, wide and clear and filled with light” (3.24). Unfortunately, because of a fever when she was young, Mercy is lame in one leg and must use crutches to walk. Her physical impairment means that she cannot go to meeting and spends most of her time indoors spinning and carding wool.
Though she is disabled, Mercy’s is the strongest spirit in the Wood family household. As the narrator explains:
Mercy certainly did not consider herself afflicted. She did a full day’s work and more. Moreover, Kit had soon discovered that Mercy was the pivot about whom the whole household moved. She coaxed her father out of his bitter moods, upheld her timorous and anxious mother, gently restrained her rebellious sister and had reached to draw an uncertain alien into the circle. (6.30)
She is also, as we see in the episode with the school, a woman of infinite patience (Chapter 9). Mercy teaches the smaller children with patience, while Kit must resort to tricks and rhymes to keep the students entertained. In this sense, she is a contrasting character. When her sister Judith strong-arms her way into an engagement with John Holbrook (the man Mercy is in love with), Mercy remains silent on the subject of her own feelings.
Mercy’s role in the novel, as her name suggests, is to offer solace and care to her family members. She is a representative of steadfast, patient love and represents a kinder, gentler version of Puritanism than her strict father. Mercy does not chastise Kit for her friendship with Hannah Tupper, and she also likes Nat Eaton, the seaman. Mercy’s virtue is rewarded with a marriage to John Holbrook at the end of the novel.Timeline