The dynamic between stepfather and child is very interesting as people argue that many stepfathers develop the need to erase that seed from the equation. While that can explain John’s hatred from his stepfather, the nature of John’s personality is directly attributed to his mistreatment. In class, we discussed how “love” was expressed in the time this book was written and before. Love was expressed in a parent’s desire to keep their offspring alive. So the beating of good behavior into one’s child was a love language expressed by the parent. Gabriel was the apple of his mother’s eye, and although Gabriel constantly did wrong and received the belt as punishment, the bond was built he was beaten out of love and care. This is similar to Gabriel’s relationship with Roy. While he does plenty bad, Gabriel beats him constantly, but it cultivates the love he has for his child.

Even more so, Gabriel sees himself in Roy. No matter how Holy he believes he walks, he knows deep down inside that Roy represents everything that Gabriel did. And because of that, he hopes to force-feed Christianity to his son in a similar fashion that it was given to him. However, this cannot work with John. John, who is revered by everyone else in the church and whoever interacts with him, seems to be walking the path of a “Saints” son. But John’s often silence, intellect, and sexuality have allowed him to view his father and the religion he has been taught, from an outsider’s lens. John knows he’s an outsider, “He longed for a light that would teach him, forever and forever, and beyond all question, the way to gogo for a power that would bind, him forever and forever, and beyond all crying to the love of God.”(76) He hoped to belong to the religion of his stepfather, but he senses a disruption. One that allows him to see the hypocrisy in his father’s words and actions, one that causes him to shrink from the spotlight of his people, and one that forces him to question and be critical of his teachings daily. Gabriel can’t teach John the way he wants to, for John, in many cases, is already brighter than Gabriel, and he’s not about to let his heir not come from his loins.

One thought on “Outsider”

  1. I wonder about whether the reason Gabriel hates John so much is because John reminds him of his own son born out of wedlock. While Gabriel’s son born out of wedlock dies in an unholy manner, John lives up to and exceeds expectations, he is deemed holy by everyone. To Gabriel, John should be a failure. John shouldn’t be good. John should embody all of the “sin” that he was born out of. Yet John is good. And Gabriel’s son, born out of the holiness of marriage (Roy), is so similar to the son he had out of wedlock and to himself. Roy can never live up to Gabriel’s expectations and that hurts Gabriel to his core to the point that Gabriel takes it out on John. Despite John doing his best to be loved.

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