Our class discussion on Wednesday made me more interested in exploring the connections between John’s father Gabriel in Go Tell It on the Mountain and the archangel Gabriel in the Bible. In one sense, both angels bring salvation to those around them. In the Bible, the archangel Gabriel tells the previously barren Elizabeth that she will have a son, who later becomes John the Baptist. Go Tell It on the Mountain Gabriel brings salvation to the life of Elizabeth by marrying her. Her boyfriend had passed away and she was left unmarried with a son. Gabriel saves her from a life as a single mother and the potential insecurity that might come along with it during that time period. This situation mirrors what Gabriel did for his first wife Deborah. She was barren and, as a result, had few prospects for marriage, but Gabriel married her when others would not.
However, there are crucial differences between these stories as well. While Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin and Elizabeth was married but barren when the archangel Gabriel appeared to them, Deborah and Elizabeth in Go Tell It on the Mountain had experience with sex and pregnancy. Deborah was sexually assaulted so violently by a group of white men that she physically could not have children, and Elizabeth gave birth to a child outside of marriage without ever telling the father. None of Mary’s purity or her cousin’s desperate prayers for a child exist in Baldwin’s narrative. With these biblical parallels in mind, it is difficult to understand Gabriel the character, who we see primarily through John’s eyes. John and his father’s contentious relationship seems to contradict this connection to Gabriel the messenger of God and deliverer of good news. An answer to this uncertainty may be found in the racism that impacts Gabriel’s life and loved ones in Go Tell It on the Mountain. Baldwin’s Gabriel is not perfect like the angel but that is because he has endured immense hardship that influences how he views the world and his son John. As Dr. Kinyon posited in class, John, with his unusual personality, may remind Gabriel of white people, resulting in their rift. While the biblical Gabriel reveals much about how Baldwin’s Gabriel brought a type of salvation to his wives, other areas of connection remain unclear.