Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960
Biblical Allusions in James Baldwinís Go Tell It on the Mountain
Structure of the Book:
The "threshing floor" is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. According to the Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "chaff symbolizes worthless, evil or wicked persons (or things) that are about to be destroyed (Ps. 1:4; Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17).
John: Alludes to John, the beloved disciple of Christ, and John the Baptist. The disciple John is believed to have written the Gospel of John; the Epistles of John (I, II, III) and the Book of Revelation to John (written during exile on the island of Patmos).
Elizabeth: Mother of John the Baptist.
Gabriel: Archangel who announces the birth of Christ to Mary (the "Annunciation") and also announced the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth. In the Old Testament, Gabriel also interpreted the vision of the prophet Daniel.
Deborah: Deborah was a military leader, judge and prophet of the Old Testament who led the Isrealites to a victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4, 5).
Esther: Esther was the Jewish Queen of the Persian palace who interceded on behalf of her cousin Mordecai and thereby saved her people, the Israelites.
Elisha:: A prophet of the Old Testament who performed miracles. According to The Oxford Companion to the Bible, many of the narratives associated with this prophet involve "stories in which Elisha alleviates the distress of individuals."
The "Fall": A central theme in Baldwinís autobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, is the Fall of mankind. We see this theme in Gabriel's personal failures as well as in the conversion scene of "Part Three" in which John sees himself as ëfallení (Cf. Genesis 3).
The Sins of the Father, "original sin"& paternal genealogy: Saint Augustine proposed that the nature of ëoriginal siní was sexual and further proposed that Adamís ëguiltí in the ëfallení state was passed through the fatherís seed during sexual intercourse. Ironically, Gabriel believes that his son Royal will continue his pastoral legacy; however, it is ultimately only his sins and transgressions which this son inherits.
The Prodigal Son: Gabriel is the fatherless son of a freed slave; his own biological sons are either betrayed by him or betray him; John is the son who accepts the Christian faith only to later reject Christianity.
Revelation/Ecstatic Rebirth: John 3 (passage in the Johannine Gospel regarding spiritual ërebirthí); the apocalyptic tone of The Book of Revelation and its creation of the "new Jerusalem" (a "new order" from the "chaos" of destruction); the Epistles of John (especially 1 John 4:8 which pronounces, "God is love"). The final scene is also prophetic and apocalyptic in tone. "Part Three: The Threshing Floor" echoes passages from Ezekiel 1-4, Daniel and the Book of Revelation to John.
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