Essau and Jacob

Gabriel does not like John. He does not like that John is smart. He does not like that John is anointed. He does not like that John was born out of wedlock. We could even go further to say that Gabriel hates John. Now, many people could argue that it does not make sense that Gabriel would hate John. Gabriel beats the other children. Gabriel is mean to other people inside and outside of the house. It could be argued that Gabriel’s dislike towards John is just a part of his natural dislike towards everyone in Gabriel’s family.

However, the text shows that Gabriel is capable of showing love. When Roy is stabbed, it is said “His father muttered sweet, delirious things to Roy, and his hands, when he dipped them again in the basin and wrung the cloth out, were trembling.” (P. 40). Gabriel is capable of loving others, it is just that that love does not reach John. While it could be argued that Gabriel shows his love by clothing and feeding John, it seems more that Gabriel does these things for John because he promised Elizabeth that he would take care of John.

This makes me think about the story of Jacob and Essau. Isaac preferred Essau. Isaac would have given everything to Essau if he could have but God intervened. Essau did not follow the tenets of God. Essau did not act as a first born son should. So despite Isaac’s intentions, Jacob stole Essau’s blessings. The important word here is stole. Because it was not that Isaac changed his mind because of Essau’s faults and decided to give Jacob Essau’s blessings. Jacob pretended to be Essau to fool an old man. While Isaac did not hate Jacob, he did not want Jacob to have the birthright. 

Gabriel is the same as Isaac, except with more malice towards John. While the difference in these two stories is that both Essau and Jacob were legitimate sons and John is an illegitimate son, the tale still stands. Gabriel prefers Roy to John. Yet, Roy is the son that does not follow the tenets of God. Roy is the son who does not seek to be loved by Gabriel. Roy is the son who does not act as a first born son should. While John does not seek to steal Roy’s “birthright”, his simple actions of being anointed and acting within the church makes him a better candidate. Gabriel hates that. Gabriel would rather see John lying on the couch stabbed and bleeding.

One thought on “Essau and Jacob”

  1. This is a very clear comparison between Biblical Text and Go Tell it on the Mountain. We’ve discussed how GTIOTM is semi-autobiographical and reflects much of Baldwin’s life experience. I think it is interesting to observe that Baldwin’s life paralleled the experience of Jacob in the Bible. I wonder if the religious influence prevalent in Baldwin’s writing is because he acknowledged the similarities between his struggles and those in the Bible or if he just thought it would bring another element into his fiction. The role religiosity played in Baldwin’s real life leads me to believe the former, and displays how much of the human experience relatable to stories in Biblical text.

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