Analysis on Religion, Racism and Family Conflicts Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


James Baldwin unfolds his theme on religion from the cover page. He uses a title with a spiritual ethnography. Most of his characters have bible names. The language he employs is biblical in nature. His chapters are bible related along with his biblical utterances. In fact, one who is not conversant with the bible may have a hard time trying to realize where the writer is coming from.

Religion is vital in guiding and supporting the members. It gives guidance of behaviour expected members. It upholds integrity and dismisses destructive behaviour. Religion promises people riches after their poverty life comes to an end. Those that behave badly fear condemnation. The widely speaks of Christianity.

The beginning chapter of the novel introduces us to a church family of Pentecostal denomination. It is a patriarchal family. Gabriel is a preacher and a staunch believer in his faith. His wife Elizabeth and son; John’s affiliation to religion is less than Gabriel’s. His religious views are complex and irrevocable. He believes in salvation through Jesus and condemnation for non believers

The novel enlightens the issue of hypocrisy in the church. Gabriel uses the church to disguise his violent behaviour. He is a role model to the church. Every Sunday he teaches sermons on the Ten Commandments and leading true Christian lives. Contrary to this, he is quick to condemn Elizabeth of her infidelity, yet he dismisses his extra marital affair. He gets Esther pregnant, steals his wife’s savings and gives Esther.

Gabriel is unable to tame his own son. He is extremely rebellious and homosexual. The novelist does not state directly that he is a homosexual; he suggests so in many instances. He finds it difficult to concentrate in his church lessons as he admires a boy who is handsome. John masturbates at school while he fantasizes with older boys. Religious turmoil in teenagers is common. Their backgrounds are contributing factors. They become rebels and adopt queer ways of living. (Sylvia Collins-Mayo)

The boy struggles on the road to spiritual maturity. At the novel, he has visions. Anxiety comes from his past sinful life and his fears. He proclaims salvation in the morning. His mum encourages him, whereas Gabriel remains cold on him. The church community eventually accepts him as a transformed person.

Family conflict

Conflicts in families are apparent in the novel. Major characters bring up the theme undoubtedly. John, a young man hates his father passionately. His father is a religious fanatic and stern disciplinarian. John imagines of killing him and running away as a result of tension his dad creates. Lack of love is obvious in his family. John consistently strives to accept his stepfather of which he finds extremely difficult.

Florence a child to a freed slave woman brings up the theme of conflict in families. Through her prayer, it is manifest that she faces discrimination by her mother. She marvels and complains that her mother favours her younger brother Gabriel. Disgusted by this treatment like John, she wants to disappear. Shockingly, she leaves her mother and Gabriel for New York. Her mother at that time was almost dying.

Various unpleasant encounters in the family unit are as an outcome past heartaches. Others have a tendency of making life impossible for others even though, they had nothing to do with their turmoil. The novel educates on the harm it may cause to the perpetrators and the victims. (Sylvia Collins-Mayo)


Baldwin brings out plainly the theme of racism. The novelist describes the effects of racism experienced by his characters. The novel dates back to a time between American slavery and the civil war. It discloses the inhumane aspect of racism. He draws characters whose ancestors were victims of either slavery or the war.

They feel alienated from the white dominated culture. The ill-treatment affects their lives negatively. They become bitter and vicious. Gabriel becomes an abusive father and does not relate well with his son. This is an adverse effect of the prejudice he faces in the hands of the whites. Gabriel suffers as a subordinate in a racist world. John wonders why his father hates the whites so much.

John is flexible and inexperienced on his views about racism. He thinks that his father only wishes to settle a past score. His father; Gabriel is distrustful and turns a deaf ear on John’s views on integration. John enjoys praise not only from the white teachers but also the African-American teachers.

He recalls a white teacher treating him after he gets sick. He does not identify with the injustices Gabriel tells him. His father says that his son has to live in a racist society for him to have a concrete picture. John has read books about prejudice on blacks in the south. Gabriel assures him that they will all burn in hell.


The way the writer brings out the issues is intriguing. He uses comprehensive method to teach lessons to the readers both directly and indirectly. He describes each temptation and how his characters overcome them making the novel easily graspable.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. Go Tell it on the Mountain. New York: Penguin Adult, 2001.

Sylvia Collins-Mayo, Pink Dandelion. Religion and Youth. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2010.

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