Biblical Parallels in the Story Line

While reading “Go Tell It on the Mountain” this week, I discovered an interesting parallel between this book and a story in the Bible. In class, we talked about many references Baldwin makes to the bible including the use of biblical names and language. I have noticed that some of the story lines mimic the bible as well. For now, I would like to focus on Gabriel’s adultery and how it correlates with Abram and Sarai in the Bible. 

In Part 2 of “Go Tell It on the Mountain”, we learn more about Gabriel’s past with his late wife Deborah. During this time, Gabriel has been waiting for “[…] the son that God had promised him, who would carry down the joyful line his fathers name…” (Baldwin 110). Deborah is barren, so Gabriel remains sonless. There is another woman named Esther whom Gabriel commits adultery with and who later becomes pregnant with his son, Royal. Panicked, Esther decides to leave for Chicago. Years later when Royal dies, Deborah tells Gabriel that she knew that it was his son all along, and she would have raised him as her own had he told her the truth. Reading this story, I couldn’t help but notice the many similarities to Genesis 15- 16. 

In the Bible, Abram’s wife Sarai is also barren. Abram asks God, “ Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless, and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascuc” (Genesis 15:2)? God then promises Abram a son of his own flesh and blood. When Sarai remains childless, Sarai tells Abram to sleep with her slave Hagar to have a child through her. Abram goes through with this and Hagar becomes pregnant with a boy named Ishmael. Once Hagar realizes that she is pregnant, she begins to hate Sarai and Sarai sends her and the child away. However, they return and stay with them for a while longer. Keeping with His promise, God allows Sarai to become pregnant with a son, Isaac. After his birth, Sarai sends Hagar and Ishmael away yet again. 

Gabriel and Abram are both promised a son by God, and are worried about their family lines. However, both men lack patience and take matters into their own hands. Gabriel has an affair with Esther which Deborah is aware of, and Abram sleeps with Hagar which Sarai is aware of. Hagar and Esther both become pregnant and bear these men son’s sons who are sent away, but return. However, eventually both sons leave again. Royal is born in Chicago, returns to the South, and is later killed. Ishmael is sent away by Sarai, returns, but is later sent away again to live in the desert. God keeps his promise to both Abram and Gabriel and provides them with sons through Sarai and Elizabeth. Baldwin attempts to mirror the bible in many ways including the story lines.

One thought on “Biblical Parallels in the Story Line”

  1. I’m so happy you wrote about this because I was thinking about this! One interesting deviation I think is Sarai’s rejection of Ishmael and her cruelty to Hagar after she “gave” her to Abram. Deborah, the picture of Sainthood, proclaimed that she would have treated Royal like her own son — which I don’t think Sarai would have done. I think attributing such selflessness to Deborah’s character, to even make her better than a biblical personality, is an interesting choice.

Comments are closed.