The Mercies Themes & Motifs

Kiran Millwood Hargrave
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Religion

Religion is an ever-present theme in The Mercies, and Hargrave shows religion as a fundamentally neutral tool which can be used for good, or used as a weapon of intolerance against those society views as “other”. At the opening of the novel, the religious traditions of the people of Vardø are a mix Sámi rituals and rites, traditional Norwegian folk religion, and Christianity. The actual beliefs of the villagers are less important to the narrative than their practices. So, while not everyone in the village necessarily identifies as a Christian, the kirke (Church) serves as a community space just as much as it serves as a house of worship. Indeed, Diinna readily agrees to come to kirke after the storm so she can meet with the rest of Vardø. And it is Kirsten, the iconoclastic rule-breaker, who suggests the villagers all meet every day in...

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