Go Tell it On the Mountain

Secular Power 11th Grade

In Go Tell It On the Mountain, James Baldwin discusses the power that can be found in secularity and in religion. The novel starts with John Grimes waking up to his fourteenth birthday in Harlem, 1935. The entire novel spans a few days, but as the story progresses, Baldwin uses extended flashback chapters to recount the lives of John's father Gabriel Grimes and his aunt Florence, detailing their experiences and how it turned them into who they are in the present time. As the novel advances, John’s experiences with the church and in the city, along with the memories of Gabriel and Florence, make it clear that there are two sources of power that can be found in the novel. Through their experiences, James Baldwin establishes that humans can achieve power and grandeur in secularism, not just through religion and God.

John’s observance of the congregants of the store-front church his father preaches at reveals to him the power that humans can wield. Every Sunday, after the school service ends, he goes to the Temple of Fire Baptized for the Sunday morning service. During one particular Sunday service: Brother Elisha starts a song on the piano and gradually the other clergymen begin to play on other instruments. The churchgoers start...

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