In Part Two of Go Tell It on the Mountain, Gabriel’s point-of-view narrative irrefutably demonstrates just how misogynistic he is by making clear the double standards he has regarding how he views himself and how he views women. When he finds out that Esther is pregnant with his child, he is shocked and appalled that she should be the one worthy enough to carry his heir. Baldwin writes from Gabriel’s perspective, “She was going to have his baby – his baby? While Deborah, despite their groaning, despite the humility with which she endured his body, yet failed to be quickened by any coming life. It was in the womb of Esther, who was no better than a harlot, that the seed of the prophet would be nourished” (124). At this point, the reader has already seen how Gabriel thinks very highly of himself while continually judging and denigrating everyone else. However, the harsh language he uses to describe Esther in referring to her as “no better than a harlot” is especially hypocritical. She is not the only one who has acted in order to create this child, and she is not the one in this relationship who is cheating on a spouse by pursuing it. We see Gabriel’s misogyny and hypocrisy a little further on in this section when he comments on “how far his people had wandered from God;” he reflects, “Women, some of whom should have been at home, teaching their grandchildren how to pray, stood, night after night, twisting their bodies into lewd hallelujahs in smoke-filled, gin-heavy dance halls, singing for their ‘loving man.’ And their loving man was any man, any morning, noon, or night – when one left town they got another…” (131). It is not his place to condemn these women and tell them what they should and should not be doing when he, as a preacher, definitely should not be engaging in many of his similarly sinful behaviors. He is no better than them, and his willingness to believe that he will be forgiven for all of his transgressions but that they are irredeemable is extremely hypocritical. This double standard solidifies in my mind how utterly reprehensible and undeserving of grace Gabriel is.
One thought on “Gabriel’s Hypocrisy”
Interestingly, prior to the hypocrisy Gabriel exhibits as a preacher when talking about himself and women, he chides his fellow preachers for their hypocrisy. You note that Gabriel has no standing on which he can criticize these women since he engages in his own sinful behaviors. Yet I would argue that Baldwin’s criticism goes beyond just the women he criticizes: David does not have the right to preach the message of God when he so willingly disregards it in his relationships with others. On one hand, this idea connects with Baldwin’s critique of institutionalized religion in general. However, on the other hand, Baldwin believes in the sainthood of suffering, sometimes sinful people. He himself becomes a preacher despite feeling that he commits an unspeakable sin in the eyes of the Lord. In conclusion, I think your description of Gabriel’s hypocrisy leads to the question of whether Gabriel has a right to preach. I don’t have an answer to that but I think it is an interesting question to condor in relation to Baldwin’s relationship with organized religion.
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