Go Tell It on the Mountain Study Guide

Go Tell It on the Mountain Study Guide

Original title:
Go Tell It on the Mountain

The story, despite taking place in the mundane and bleak Harlem district, is very Biblical by its nature. The tale of John Grimes and his search for himself, establishing his relationship with God and desperate attempts to fix at least some relationships with his family is very close to Earth. But if we look closely, we see a lot of allusions to the Biblical story of Ham, the unfortunate son of Noah, who was guilty of seeing his father naked and whose son Canaan was cursed for it forever to become a servant to his other brothers. Even the style of writing may look similar to those of the readers who are familiar with Biblical texts.

Harlem is depicted with almost painful accuracy, with all its injustice, dirt and danger. No wonder: the author himself was born and grew up there. We can only guess how much of an autobiography the novel contains, but we can be sure that emotions of young John Grimes and his own vision of experience are genuine, not made up.

Later in the book, the theme of Biblical stories becomes bitterly ironic, because the main antagonist of the story, who confuses and oppresses John so much, is his zealous stepfather. John, in his turn, as an adolescent, just starts to study his still fragile identity and sexuality, so all his life consists of questioning himself: is he doing right? Is he okay with his body, mind and ideas? Are the social norms more important than his own feelings?

The classical coming of age story turns into something bigger, into the clash between individual and social, religion and church as support or as oppressive force that is ready to sacrifice the personality to the norms. John has to go through a lot to finally become a mature young man, who is stripped of idealistic beliefs in his family and church community and ready to accept them as the flawed people they are.

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