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Go Tell It On A Mountain

1048 words - 5 pages

The novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin, provides a particular insight into the African-American religious experiences in the early twentieth century. The author shows the reader a glimpse into the African-American church in the northern part of the United States by framing the book largely within the characters prayers. Baldwin also forms the characters to show how their past religious experiences mediate their relationships with one another and their surroundings. While there are a large number of outside influences that shape how one relates to others, Baldwin argues that religion is one of the key components in African-American relationships in the early twentieth century. ...view middle of the document...

Baldwin’s novel takes place in a poor storefront church that had this same strict moral code that Higginbotham writes about. The closeness of the African-Americans to their church gives the church a large role in mediation in relationships between other African-American members and the members in the church to those outside their church.
The church even proves to be of great significance to all of the main characters of the book even if the character does not believe what the church teaches. For example, Florence does not believe in what the church teaches, but she is a central character and has a noteworthy portion of the book focused on her prayer while within the church. In that chapter we find that Florence does not believe in the church as others in her family believe, yet an unnamed disease threatens her life which give the impression that it drives her to the church because she is afraid of death. Even though Florence seems to be the strongest character because of her ability to stand up to Gabriel when no one else is able to. On the other hand, she is acutely aware of her weakness because of the sickness within her and this awareness motivates her to go to the church. Florence’s presence in the church is proof of the strength of the church within the African-American culture in the early twentieth century.
The African-American religion is the central force in their culture in Baldwin’s book. The beginning of the book points out how powerful the influence of the church is over all those that attend it. Elisha and Ella Mae’s relationship had a hint of what was thought as improper, thus the minister decided that something needed to be said about it. Baldwin wrote, “as Father James spoke of the sin that he knew they had not committed yet, of the unripe fig plucked too early from the tree…John felt himself grow dizzy in his seat and could not look at Elisha.” Father James suggests that there might be sin later on down the road if Elisha and Ella Mae had continued in their impure relationship....

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