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Go Tell It On The Mountain By James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a versatile and influential artist in the post-World War II generation. His work Go Tell It on the Mountain was his first published novel, and many observers say that it is has stood as his best. It is a traditional a novel with John Grimes including his psychological and spiritual development. John starts with a confused and troubled family life. He undergoes a conversion spiritually and the troubles of the people around him takes its toll on him. Race is explored here and is commonly use it to refer to the distinction of certain population group with another group.

The terms African-American and Latinos are an example of such delineation. Generally, we associate race with the commonalities and differences of inherent physical and genetic characteristics manifested by visible human traits as such an individual’s skin color and distinct facial features. The story of James Baldwin can take on a more relevant and compelling force to reckon with in the particular time and era it happens because of the theme of racism and slavery which it expounds on. People during the Civil War will also remember what happened then — which brought on unique and perplexing problems for all Americans.

Loyalties were divided, and families were divided. Special economic and political problems were created on both sides. Numerous crises plagued both the Union and the Confederacy. People and governments in both North and South had to face strained circumstances . Go Tell it on the Mountain is a moving piece of work by author James Baldwin which recounts the story of John Grimes in Harlem in 1935. Using flashbacks that enhance the emotional tone of the story, Baldwin succeeds in telling the lives of John’s parents and aunt and links this boy in the North to his slave grandmother in an earlier South.

There are different parts that deal with different person’s point of view, making the story whole as seen from this character’s viewpoint. The Civil War took its toll on the victims and ensued as this is the backdrop with which Baldwin weaves the story. For instance scenes refers to what happened at the time are all recounted here. The Northerners thought that the war was going to be easy. They knew they had the advantage compared to the Southerners. The fact that the story is about a family separated by this war all the more makes the story grip readers’ hearts.

There are also other reasons but it is also worthwhile to mention that there was one characteristic of the South that is quite sentimental to recall. This was the Southerners tenacious conviction, however unholy. That they were fighting for a principle. It was not slavery. The Southerners had an idea of home which the Northerners did not share. Following the eruption of the Civil War, the slavery issue was heightened by the flight to Union lines of large numbers of slaves who volunteered to fight for their freedom and that of their fellow slaves.

Under these conditions, a strict application of established policy would have required return of fugitive slaves to their Confederate masters and would have alienated the staunchest supporters of the Union cause in the North and abroad. We see the story unfold and then we remember what happened at that time as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation. The effect of the Emancipation Proclamation reached far and wide. For instance, we see that from then on, sympathy with the Confederacy was identified with support of slavery.

Antislavery sentiment in France and Britain, whose governments were friendly to the Confederacy, became so strong that it precluded the possibility of intervention by those governments in behalf of the Confederacy. As a further result of the proclamation, the Republican thus was solid in principle and in organization. The prestige it attained enabled it to hold power until 1884. In the early part of the Civil War, President Lincoln refrained from issuing an edict freeing the slaves despite the insistent urgings of abolitionists.

Believing that the war was being fought solely to preserve the Union, he sought to avoid alienating the slaveholding border-states that had remained in the Union. We see the effect of this proclamation on the lives of the characters of Baldwin and remember how events were at the time it happened. The proclamation did not reflect Lincoln’s desired solution for the slavery problem. He continued to favor gradual emancipation, to be undertaken voluntarily by the states, with federal compensation to slaveholders, a plan he considered eminently just in view of the common responsibility of North and South for the existence of slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation was chiefly a declaration of policy, which, it was hoped, would serve as an opening wedge in depleting the South’s great manpower reserve in slaves and, equally important, would enhance the Union cause in the eyes of Europeans, especially the British. These conflicts also parallel the conflicts of the life of the main character in his environment. It provides a colorful backdrop to the story’s already strong theme of slavery. Baldwin uses the issues on racism issues in this novel and also family issues. John is confused as to why his father looks at him with disgust and even favors younger brother Roy.

Torn between these conflicting emotions of love and hate, Baldwin weaves the story with similarities on the conflicts of the events at that time. But something spiritually enlightening happens to him and he is able to reconcile everything in the end. Even the Emancipation Proclamation parallels the element of this enlightenment although the proclamation’s effects do not give a resolution to the bigger issues between the North and the South since racism became an effect here. John Baldwin’s novel portrays John undergoing a religious transformation, experiencing salvation on the “threshing-floor” of his family’s storefront Harlem church.

However, this does not earn him his father’s love. It is only the readers who know that the man he thinks is his father is in fact, his stepfather, Gabriel. There is an unfair treatment of Gabriel to John is not related to John in any way bit to Gabriel’s own hidden past. John Grimes tries to search for his true identity and tries to distinguish the values of the people around him from the ones that he holds. The novel takes place during his birthday and it is no coincidence. It is in conjunction with the search for one’s personal identity.

WORK CITED Baldwin, James. Go Tell it on the Mountain. Dell Publishing, New York, 1952.

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