Go Tell it on the mountain’ – Baldwin setting the stage for the revelations to come.  

In the bible, guilt is the remorse of sin, whereas shame comes from the devil and is the first emotion mentioned in the bible. Shame embodies the entirety of your existence, and I think understanding the biblical ideas of shame is essential in reading James Baldwin’s ‘Go tell It on the Mountain’. The character names are also rooted in religion, with the character of John, connecting to John the Baptist. John the Baptist’s mother was also called Elizabeth, she and her husband Zechariah had been told by the angel Gabriel that despite her age, she was going to have a baby. The role of Gabriel, as delivering God’s will by providing Elizabeth with a baby, mirrors Gabriel’s sense of duty to provide her with the protection of a husband and father the child. The biblical connotations of John are also significant in that he preached the word of God to the people. I believe that Baldwin chose this biblical figure to represent himself as he was delivering a message of great significance to the population of America. The hymn Go Tell It on the Mountain is a proclamation of the Birth of Christ. I believe this title was a metaphorical choice, that John’s religious revelation within the novel, is equivocal to the birth of Christ. The choice of the hymn could also be interpreted as Baldwin suggesting the importance of the messages he will deliver through his works as being on par with the significance of the message of the birth of Christ. Furthermore, the book ends with John’s character saying to Elisha “No matter what anybody says you remember – please remember – I was saved.” I think this idea of accountability is very important, that despite the scrutiny of others, the word of God and the reflections that Baldwin has on America in this period, are true. Biblical notions of love are also foundational to Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, which I view as an intentional response to Wright’s ‘Native Son’, in which Bigger has no faith or hope. Baldwin uses the sentiment of love, and the basis of religion to remove this fear and replace it with hope. However, he is very cautious of religion and is more of an advocate for the values than the practices of the church.