Esther and Deborah 

Go Tell It on the Mountain and the Bible

Gabriel’s relationship with the women in his past life is representative of how he believes in the lack of agency of women. He resents Esther for embodying his sexual desires in contrast to Deborah who is marginalized for her barrenness. Gabriel views Esther as a symbol of sin and temptation. Although she gives birth to his son, Royal, whom he is a stranger to, Gabriel cannot see Esther other than a woman sent to disrupt his holiness. In the Bible, Esther was living in exile before becoming a queen and Baldwin pulls from this narrative. Esther in Go Tell It on the Mountain is treated nothing like a queen but does live in exile from Gabriel to the point where he doesn’t even know his son. Further, Gabriel does not tell Deborah that Royal is his son, even though she knows. Deborah is depicted in complete contrast to Esther. She is characterized as a godly woman who represents all good parts of the church. In the Bible, Deborah is characterized as a judge and/or prophet. On her deathbed, Deborah conveys to Gabriel that she would’ve taken care of him. It didn’t matter to her that he wasn’t her child. This final judgment is indicative of how much Deborah was watching the people around her, especially Gabriel. While she may not resent Gabriel for his lies, she warns him that God is also watching him and that he should atone for his sins before it gets too late. This sort of prophetic warning is reflective in the way Gabriel treats John. He has not learned that the way he treats his children will have consequences. Esther and Deborah do not let Gabriel control their views on Royal or their life. Although he may condemn Deborah for not being able to have any children or Esther for being a “harlot”, he is judged more for his actions than anyone else in the novel. One can only wonder if Gabriel has limited control over his emotions and actions than he chooses to reveal. His own self hatred might be masked by the way he treats his children, especially John.

One thought on “Esther and Deborah ”

  1. I appreciated your choosing to focus on some of the female characters in Go Tell It on the Mountain in relation to their being symbolic of women in the Bible, as I think any analysis of this story is incomplete without bringing these women into the discussion. With that being said, it is interesting to compare Deborah and Esther in the eyes of Gabriel, as you point out. It could be argued that, in addition to being different in terms of their religiosity, they also differ in terms of their submissiveness to the men around them, namely Gabriel, and their willingness to accept their respective places in society. Perhaps, Esther is viewed as more sinful by Gabriel and others not only because of her “promiscuity” but also because she stands up for herself against Gabriel and everything that he stands for. On the other hand, and despite her infertility, Deborah is exceptionally more tolerant of Gabriel’s misgivings, and this is, in his eyes, what allows her to be saved. These women thus stand in contrast to each other and also to Gabriel as they both serve to highlight his hypocrisy and less-than-perfect behavior.

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