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Go Tell It on the Mountain | Study Guide

James Baldwin

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Go Tell It on the Mountain | Quotes


The darkness of his sin was in the hardheartedness with which he resisted God's power.

Narrator, Part 1, The Seventh Day

John feels guilty about his reluctance to fully take part in his church, his judgment of the other church members, and his resistance to allow the power of God to save him. He does not want to grow up to be poor and angry like his stepfather. Instead he wants a life that brings him some measure of wealth and respect.


He remembered the people ... in that city, whose eyes held no love for him.

Narrator, Part 1, The Seventh Day

As John wanders through New York, he feels both empowered and exhilarated, even though he has experienced the apathy and scorn of white people based both on the color of his skin and the hostility of the urban environment.


You is in the Word or you ain't—ain't no halfway with God.

Sister McCandless, Part 1, The Seventh Day

Sister McCandless illustrates the all-or-nothing philosophy shared by the Temple of the Fire Baptized and John's father, Gabriel. To them salvation is something absolute and fixed, and there is no room for error.


Her life ... led her at last to her mother's starting-place, the altar of the Lord.

Narrator, Part 2, The Prayers of the Saints (Florence's Prayer)

Florence has spent her entire life trying to have a life different from her mother's life of prayer and hard labor. Her efforts have led her far from home, through a failed marriage and menial jobs, to end up old, sick, and alone. She finds that her life has not turned out substantially different from her mother's after all.


Looking at his face it ... came to her ... all women had been ... born to suffer the weight of men.

Narrator, Part 2, The Prayers of the Saints (Florence's Prayer)

Florence has been second to her brother her entire life, and she has lost opportunities to attend school and flourish so he would be given those opportunities. She marries a man who is more of a burden than a help because of his irresponsibility with money. All the women in the novel suffer at the hands of men. Deborah is raped by white men and enters a partially loveless marriage with Gabriel. Elizabeth suffers when her first love kills himself, leaving her alone and pregnant in the city. Then she suffers Gabriel's abuse and rage throughout their marriage.


The music that filled any town ... was not the music of the saints but ... infernal.

Narrator, Part 2, The Prayers of the Saints (Gabriel's Prayer)

As Gabriel travels around preaching, trying to suppress his guilt about his affair with Esther, he sees black communities all over the country overtaken by sin: drinking, dancing, and sex. He is disappointed by his people and blames white people for feeding these corruptions into black populations, causing the loss of lives and souls.


You better commence to tremble when the Lord, He gives you your heart's desire.

Deborah, Part 2, The Prayers of the Saints (Gabriel's Prayer)

When Deborah gets Gabriel to admit the truth about Royal, she wonders why Gabriel rejected the chance to raise the son he always wanted. She decides that when God gives you what you want it is both a blessing and a curse. God gave Gabriel a son, but under difficult circumstances that turned tragic over time. Deborah wanted Gabriel, and she loves him, but he also treats her poorly over the years.


It was a sound of rage and weeping ... of the deepest water, the strongest chains, the most cruel lash.

Narrator, Part 3, The Threshing Floor

The sound that overtakes John in the throes of his vision on the threshing floor is the rage and despair of generations of slaves and other oppressed blacks. For the first time in his life, John feels connected to the suffering of his people and begins to understand and believe that the only way to soothe that suffering is through God's love.


It come from your mouth ... I want to see you live it. It's more than a notion.

Gabriel, Part 3, The Threshing Floor

Despite John's desperation for Gabriel's approval after John's vision and salvation on the threshing floor, Gabriel is skeptical of the change in his stepson. This statement reveals that Gabriel will never approve of John, nor will John ever be good enough.


Elisha ... no matter what anybody says, you remember—please remember—I was saved. I was there.

John, Part 3, The Threshing Floor

In spite of his transformative experience, John appears to have doubts about what will happen to him in the future. He feels changed by the experience in church, but his words to Elisha indicate he may still have other plans for a life different from that of his stepfather. Those plans do not take away the fact that he had this experience and endured baptism by fire.

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