As mentioned in class, Go Tell It on the Mountain seems to be all about love but also about loneliness. Some characters are looking for love, some wanted love, others have an absence of love which is what leaves the room for loneliness. When Roy and Elizabeth are talking about Gabriel beating him, Roy responds to Elizabeth’s assertion that Gabriel beats Roy because he loves Roy (P. 21) with “That ain’t the kind of love I understand, old lady. What you reckon he’d do if he didn’t love me.” (P. 21). In a way, Roy is sensing an absence of love from Gabriel.

Elizabeth never loved her mother as her mother seemed to not love her (p. 147-148). She was separated from her father, whom she loved by her aunt who deemed him unfit to care for Elizabeth as he was “the first cousin of the devil (P. 149-150). In not loving Elizabeth’s father, Elizabeth comes to the conclusion that her aunt could not love her (P. 150) and the lack of love was reciprocated by Elizabeth.

Then God ripped Richard, a man she loved, away from her as retribution (P. 152). In a way, Elizabeth is aware that Gabriel does not love John or herself (P. 169-170), that his spirit is not right despite his promise to love her and John until he died (P. 182). It is this idea that all throughout her life, Elizabeth’s love has been taken away from her and that she has and will always lack love.

Most importantly, John is looking for love from everyone. He feels utterly alone for most of the book, searching for reasons why Gabriel doesn’t love, and searching for a way to know what others think of him. So many characters in the book have this feeling of loneliness and solitude. I think James Baldwin in a way is commenting on the ways in which people are constantly looking for love and a place to call their own. That the world is full of people who live without love and cannot see themselves actually being loved despite their great need for it.

3 thoughts on “Love”

  1. I agree that a crucial aspect of the narrative is John finding love, not only within his family and the church, but for himself in the Black community. We see other characters struggle with their self-worth in their Black identity as Florence tries to bleach her skin and Richard accuses her of wishing him to be white. Baldwin previously seeks the most validation from the white community, so it is significant that he has this rebirth within the Black church. He is surrounded by the support of the saints that welcome him and celebrating his saving, helping him find love and acceptance for himself.

  2. This is something I was interested in as well, and really enjoyed hearing your perspective on it! I agree with you in that Baldwin is commenting on the need for love that many people are searching for. I think that this could be a reason why so many people in the story are drawn to a religious life. They believe that they will find the love they are missing in a higher power. Although, it does not do much to alleviate the hurt they feel in the human world, it gives them a sense of peace in that after they die, they may have someone to love them. I think that is what John realizes in the end. Or a part of what he realizes.

  3. I really enjoyed this insight about the novel being primarily a flawed love story, but I think the reason for love’s flaws is primarily a result of a hunger for power. Gabriel cannot distinguish love from the furthering of his progeny, which he ultimately desires in order to have a powerful and holy lineage of his own. The men in the story, specifically Gabriel and John, express their love of others in terms of their own power. Just as Gabriel wants to express his own power to God in terms of his holy lineage, John would like to assert his own physical power in order to be able to properly love Elisha. In the scene in the church, the two boys fight as an expression of love, and throughout the novel John hates himself for loving men because he is less powerful than them in his own strength and because it weakens his power in the eyes of God. The link between love and power in the eyes of Gabriel and John is what makes actual love difficult to achieve for them in my opinion.

Comments are closed.