Literary Devices in Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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In Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin, Compare and Contrast is shown throughout the novel. Baldwin had shown that there are characters that have similar situations, but other who contrast among themselves. For example, Florence and Elizabeth are similar because of their situations, while Florence and Gabriel clash because of their attitude and beliefs. Another example of compare and contrast is Frank and Richard being similar in nature, but Esther and Deborah being pictures of contrast.

Florence and Elizabeth are both unfortunate women who don’t get the love that they deserve and both have the happiness taken away from them due to their last husbands. In Florence’s past, she sacrifices her childhood and youth to take care of her younger brother, Gabriel, and by doing her homework. She also neglects her education so she would send Gabriel to school and help her mother at home. When her mother falls ill, she takes the burden of attending to her sick mother and working to earn a living. For all Florence has done, her mother and Gabriel both take her for granted and they both fail to acknowledge her worth.

Also when Florence leaves her home to preserve her chastity, her brother and mother both take it amiss. In New York, Florence meets a man, named Frank, who promises to provide her love and security. Frank does love her, but he doesn’t take the time to take care of her needs. He spends all of his money and leaves her to fend for herself and the house. When Florence tries to explain and show Frank his responsibilities in the house, she fails, and is soon forced to show Frank the door. Florence is unsuccessful when it comes to love and marriage. When she needs company and comfort, she is denied and left alone to have a lonely and miserable life.

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Elizabeth has the same situation. In her childhood, after her mother passed away, he is taken from her father by her aunt. During her youth, she falls in love with a man named Richard and plans to live with him in a strange city. Later on she becomes pregnant with his child out of wedlock and refrains herself from telling Richard about it. In this process, she suffers the consequences from her foolishness. Richard gets framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and is severely punished. Richard soon commits suicide and leaves Elizabeth when he can’t take the insults any longer. Elizabeth loses the man she loves and is left to raise the child by herself.

She’s punished for loving Richard and is left to struggle in the cruel world. Later in life, she meets Gabriel and falls in love with him. She believes that he is loving and caring, but after their marriage, she learns that Gabriel can be prejudice. She feels helpless against his violent behavior and resigns herself to the situation. For all she has done in their home, Gabriel hasn’t said one kind or loving word towards her. Once again, the man that she loved hasn’t provided her with the security and peace she needs. She is unlucky as Florence and is betrayed by life.

Frank and Richard are both weak characters who yield to the pleasures in life. They are insecure Negroes and feel threatened by the power of the Whites and soon finds a route to escape their fears. Frank loves Florence and promises to respect her and secure her but soon forgets his responsibilities when money gets involved. He apologizes, but only to commit his mistake again, failing to provide security and harmony to her in their marriage. When Florence tells him to leave the house out of disgust, he leaves and lives with another woman, instead of trying to improve himself and to correct his life.

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Literary Devices in Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin. (2016, Jul 24). Retrieved from

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