Go Tell it On the Mountain

John’s Only Escape: Church as a Way Out College

James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on The Mountain is an autobiographical look into the corruptible nature of the black male condition as it relates to the church. John Grimes is a young boy but his narrative suggests that his existence is shaped by forces outside his being. These forces are institutional, familial, and ultimately forms internalized racism in John. The ending of Go Tell It on the Mountain suggests that John has been defeated by the overwhelming power of the secular and sacred because in the end he escapes to the one place that he believes has been cleansed from filth, sexual repression, and racialized hierarchies.

Baldwin emphasizes the overpowering influence that cleanliness and filthiness play in the lives of the Grimes family. Certain spaces are limiting in the way that they are perceived whether it be as domestic or public, clean or dirty. Three different liminal spaces are represented in the twenty-four hour period that the text takes place in, the home, the secular world, and the church. All of these places make John feel constricted or free based on how clean they are and why. Gabriel experiences a provisional moment within the kitchen of a white family. Gabriel cheats on his wife and it is through this...

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