In his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin divides his narrative into three distinct parts. The first section, “The Seventh Day,” sets the novel’s central action, what Shirley S. Allen, in “Religious Symbolism and Psychic Reality in Baldwin’s ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain,”’ calls John’s “initiation into manhood.” John completes that initiation and discovers a sense of self in the closing section, “The Threshing Floor.”
Between these two sections comes “The Prayers of the Saints,” which is broken into three narratives that focus on the history of John’s family: his stepfather Gabriel, his mother Elizabeth, and his Aunt Florence. Marcus Klein in “James Baldwin: A Question of Identity,” argues that the different narrative voices in this section produce “a technical fault” in the novel since “John doesn’t really know the lives . . . Read More
The setting of James Baldwin’s novel – the impoverished part of New York known as Harlem, and more specifically the storefront church within the Harlem community – was undoubtedly a key reason for the book’s popularity upon its first publication, giving intellectuals an inside look at a world not many of them had known. This setting may be the reason some people read Go Tell It on the Mountain today, even with the inner city well documented by television cameras. The important thing about this setting, though, is that it is integral to the personality of the characters, affecting them and being formed by who they are.
The adult members of the Grimes family, for instance, all came to New York for different reasons. Florence came first, thirty years earlier, rebelling against the limitations put on her as a woman; Gabriel to escape the deaths of his illegitimate son and his barren wife; and Elizabeth came . . . Read More
Identity (Search For Self)
Go Tell It on the Mountain is primarily about John Grimes’ quest to find out who he really is, to distinguish the values of those around him from the ones that he holds. It is no coincidence that the novel takes place on his birthday, which is the day representing a step forward into maturity, or that it is his fourteenth, marking the boundary between childhood and young adulthood because it implies the start of puberty. The point of growing up is discovering one’s own identity.
John comes from a family that is involved in his life, but, because of his father’s thoughtlessness and bullying tendencies, he cannot accept that his role in this family is who he really is. Even without knowing that Gabriel Grimes is not his real father, John holds him at a distance. This could be explained as a result of Gabriel’s harshness, while Roy’s wild ways, which reflect the childhood Gabriel . . . Read More
Seventeen years old and recently arrived in Harlem from Georgia, Elisha is the nephew of the pastor of the Temple of the Fire of the Baptized. He has been publicly chastised in front of the congregation for “walking disorderly” with Ella Mae Washington, meaning that they had been walking without supervision and might have given in to temptation and had sex. J
ohn is infatuated with Elisha. At Sunday school, “John stared at Elisha all during the lesson, admiring the timbre of Elisha’ s voice, much deeper and manlier than his own, admiring the leanness, and grace, and darkness of Elisha in his Sunday suit, and wondering if he would ever be holy as Elisha was holy.” While clearing the church to prepare for the Saturday evening tarry meeting, John and Elisha wrestle: He saw the veins rise on EIisha’s forehead and in his neck … and John, watching these manifestations of his power, became wild with . . . Read More
James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain chronicles the experiences of its young narrator, John Grimes, in Harlem in 1935. The novel opens on the morning of John’s fourteenth birthday and centers on the events that lead up 10 his spiritual conversion later that evening. The narrative also provides a history of his family, of his stepfather Gabriel , a preacher in Temple of the Fire Baptized; of his aunt Florence, Gabriel’s sister; and of his mother Elizabeth. All of these stories add poignancy and context to John’s efforts to come to terms with his present and his future.
On that morning as he is lying in bed, John thinks about his family’s expectations that he will follow in his father’s footsteps into “the holy life” but wonders if that is the path he wants for himself. His Jack of devotion to the church angers his father. John remembers one Sunday morning when Father James, . . . Read More
Chaim Potok’s The Chosen focuses on the contrasts between extreme ends of Orthodox Judaism. Despite criticisms that Potok is overly optimisticReuven regains his sight, Danny renounces the tzaddikate without being ostracized by his father, Danny and Reuven resolve many of the conflicts they feel between the secular world and Orthodox Judaism-Potok’s novel provides us with valuable insights into American Orthodox Jewish life during and after World War II. The novel explores in detail the lives and traditions of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews, and creates an apparently realistic portrait of both cultures. The Chosen attempts to explore the place of Judaism in a secular society, provides insights into tensions between faith and scholarship, and suggests Judaism’s need to create a new philosophy for the modem world.
The setting is Brooklyn in the 1940s. Reuven’s detailed descriptions of his and Danny’s homes and Reb Saunders’ synagogue appear . . . Read More
Persecution by the Nazis in Germany before World War II led to the dispersal of European Jews to the United States, Palestine, and other countries. When the full extent of the annihilation ofJews in the gas chambers of Nazi Germany was revealed (six million had been exterminated), a resurgence of interest in establishing a Jewish homeland was ignited. During the 1930s, Jews in Germany began to lose their civil rights and eventually they lost their property and were relocated to the work and death camps that the Nazis established in parts of eastern Europe. Those Jews who left Germany before World War II were the first wave during the middle of the twentieth century to settle outside Europe. After the war, some 200,000 concentration camp survivors came to America. Many of them were Orthodox Jews, and they tended to settle into the type of neighborhood described by Chaim Potok in The Chosen. By the 1950s, the children and . . . Read More
The themes of The Chosen unfold through the friendship of Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter. They first meet in the contest of a baseball game between their rival yeshivas (Jewish religious schools). Reuven is hit in the eye by a baseball that Danny has hit, breaking his glasses and cutting his eye. At the hospital he at first refuses to let Danny apologize, but after his father rebukes him, he relents. Much to his surprise, he finds Danny a compelling personality. Reuven is attracted to his intellectual brilliance and is also fascinated by the differences in their personal and religious upbringing. Potok uses this friendship as the basis for exploring conflict between fathers and sons, a theme which transcends the particular setting of a Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where both boys live. The differences in their religious upbringing is explored in great detail as the two develop their friendship and get to know one . . . Read More
See Mr. David Malter
Appleman Danny Saunder’s experimental psychology professor at Hirsch College is Professor Nathan Appleman. Danny is in conflict with the professor and the content of the class because it is too mathematical and at odds with Freudian psychology. His friend Reuven defends the professor and the methods of experimental psychology.
One of the players on Reuven Malter’s baseball team is Davey Cantor. Davey provides Reuven with information about the fierceness of the Hasidic team they are playing. Davey calls the other team “murderers.”
Mrs. Carpenter is the nurse who is in charge of Reuven, Tony Savo, and Billy Merritt while they are in the hospital.
Mr. Galanter is the coach of Reuven . . . Read More
The Chosen explores the friendship between Jewish Reuven Malter and Hasidic (Jewish Orthodox) Danny Saunders. In Brooklyn during World War II, Danny hits Reuven in the face with a baseball, giving him a concussion. Reuven undergoes an operation to remove a piece of glass from his eye. In the hospital, he meets former boxer Tony Savo and Billy Merrit, a young boy blinded in a car accident. Danny visits Reuven and confides that his father expects him to become a rabbi, though he wants to be a psychologist. He also explains that his father disapproves of apikorsim (Jews who are not extremely orthodox) such as Reuven. Reuven’s father, David Malter, urges Reuven to become friends with Danny because the Talmud (the book of Jewish holy law) says the two things one should acquire in life are a teacher and a close friend. When Danny calls again, the boys talk about religion and reading. Danny regularly visits the library to read books . . . Read More