In “GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN” James Baldwin works with themes of spirituality, racism, and security. He does this through Jahn, Gabriel, and the church. The author believes that the only way to happiness is to truly know who you are.
John had an unstable relationship with religion. He found himself into religion because of a lack of autonomy. “Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father. It had been said so often that John, without ever thinking about it, had come to believe it himself.” He was not always such a good student of religion. “When he was young, John had paid no attention in Sunday school, and always forgot the golden text, which earned him the wrath of his father.” At the end of the novel, he felt that he did what his stepfather and the community around him always predicted from him to be and it's his time to decide what he really wants. “Elisha,' he said, 'no matter what happens to me, where I go, what folks say about me, no matter what anybody says, you remember - please remember - I was saved. I was there.” As a result, he lost himself by becoming a different person than he really wanted to be.
Gabriel always incites his sons to hate white people. He uses Roy's accident, one of his sons, as an object lesson to show John what might happen if he gets too close to white people. He fakes the facts to show how whites people are dangerous. "You see?" came now from his father. "It was white folks, some of them white folks you like so much that tried to cut your brother's throat." He was terrified that anything could happen to his sons when the violence increased between whites and blacks. "I just mean you better be careful, son. Ain't nothing but white folks in town today. They done killed… last night…I know," he said abruptly, "but they ain't going to bother me. They done got their nigger for this week. " For this reason, a huge gap between whites and blacks has been created that led into major community problems.
The church represents a safe place for the characters in the novel. It provides a quiet retreat from the chaos of the city and conflicts with people. “Sinners along the avenue watched them - men still wearing their Saturday-night clothes… cigarettes between their fingers.” John feels he belongs to the church more than any other place. “It was not the biggest church in Harlem, not yet the smallest, but John brought up to believe it was the holiest and best.” Also, it was a safety zone from Gabriel's rage at home and it was the place where he could feel important. “His father was the head deacon in this church.” Subsequently, the church had its unique spiritual value.
James Baldwin states that a person needs to identify himself in order to achieve excellency. Jahn, Gabriel, and the church are illustrations the social order conflicts that could make us lose our personal identities. The author is saying that following what people want for you leds to lack of joy in life.
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