Go Tell It on the Mountain

by

James Baldwin

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Go Tell It on the Mountain Characters

John

Elizabeth and Richard’s son, Gabriel’s stepson, and the protagonist of Go Tell It on the Mountain. Elizabeth gives birth to John out of wedlock after Richard’s suicide and Gabriel is not his… read analysis of John

Gabriel

The antagonist in Go Tell It on the Mountain and John’s stepfather. Gabriel is born to Rachel, a former slave, in the American South during the Reconstruction Era. Gabriel grows up under the… read analysis of Gabriel

Elizabeth

Gabriel’s wife, and mother to John, Roy, Sarah, and Ruth. After Elizabeth’s mother dies when Elizabeth is just eight years old, Elizabeth’s aunt insists that Elizabeth’s father, who runs… read analysis of Elizabeth

Florence

Gabriel’s sister, Rachel’s daughter, and Frank’s wife. Florence grows up resenting her brother and all men because her mother gives Gabriel preferential treatment. Rachel gives Gabriel better food and better clothes, and… read analysis of Florence

Richard

Elizabeth’s fiancé and John’s biological father. Richard moves to Maryland in 1919, escaping the deep-seated racial violence in the South for the promise of opportunity in the North. He works as a clerk… read analysis of Richard
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Deborah

Florence’s closest friend and Gabriel’s first wife. As a young girl, Deborah is brutally raped by a group of white men, and because of this, her community looks at her with “reproach” as… read analysis of Deborah

Rachel

Florence and Gabriel’s mother. Rachel is born a slave on a Southern plantation and is not liberated until she is over thirty years old. Rachel’s life as a slave is full of heartache. She… read analysis of Rachel

Elisha

Father James’s nephew and a young preacher in John’s Harlem church. Elisha is handsome and kind, and John is very obviously attracted to him. John looks up to Elisha because he is young… read analysis of Elisha

Esther

Royal’s mother and Gabriel’s mistress. Gabriel has an affair with Esther while he is married to Deborah, and this affair results in Royal’s birth. Gabriel associates Esther with “flame” and “the eternal… read analysis of Esther

Roy

Elizabeth and Gabriel’s son and John’s brother. Presumably, Roy is short for Royal, a name Gabriel gives his son “because the line of the faithful [is] a royal line,” and his son is… read analysis of Roy

Royal

Gabriel’s “bastard son” with Esther. After Esther dies, Royal is raised by his grandparents, never knowing his father. Esther names her son Royal to “mock” Gabriel, who wants to name his first son… read analysis of Royal

Frank

Florence’s ex-husband. According to Florence, Frank is “determined to live and die a common [n_____].” Frank “drinks too much” and “sings the blues.” He is never able to buy Florence a house, or anything… read analysis of Frank

Elizabeth’s Father

A “young and handsome” man, who is also “kind” and “generous.” Like Elizabeth, her father is “dark,” and he is “gentle” and “proud.” Elizabeth is “the apple of his eye,” and he treats his… read analysis of Elizabeth’s Father

Elizabeth’s Mother

Elizabeth’s mother dies when Elizabeth is just eight years old. She is described as “very fair, and beautiful,” and her health is fragile. Elizabeth hardly knows her mother, and she “never loved her.” Elizabeth’s mother… read analysis of Elizabeth’s Mother

Elizabeth’s Aunt

The older sister of Elizabeth’s mother. Elizabeth’s aunt insists that Elizabeth move to Maryland to live with her after Elizabeth’s mother dies. Elizabeth’s aunt had loved the girl’s mother, but she doesn’t love Elizabeth… read analysis of Elizabeth’s Aunt

Father James

The preacher at John’s church, the Temple of the Fire Baptized, and Elisha’s uncle. Gabriel is the “head deacon” at the church, but it is Father James who preaches on Sundays and leads… read analysis of Father James

Ella Mae

Mother Washington’s granddaughter and a member of John’s Harlem church. Father James condemns Ella Mae publicly after church services for “walking disorderly” with Elisha. Ella Mae and Elisha’s relationship was entirely innocent… read analysis of Ella Mae

Sister McCandless

A member of the Temple of the Fire Baptized. Sister McCandless is “one of the biggest and blackest [women] God has ever made,” and she has a loud, booming voice that is perfect for preaching… read analysis of Sister McCandless
Minor Characters
Sister Price
A member of John’s Harlem church. Sister Price is at the Temple of the Fire Baptized on John’s fourteenth birthday when he is saved on the threshing-floor.
Mother Washington
Ella Mae’s grandmother, who is a member of John’s Harlem church. Mother Washington “helps” Florence to pray when she comes to the Temple of the Fire Baptized for the first time.
Madame Williams
Elizabeth’s distant relative in Harlem. When Elizabeth moves North to be with Richard, she moves in with Madame Williams, “a respectable female relative.” Madame Williams constantly burns incense and holds “spiritualists séances” on Saturday nights.
Sarah
Elizabeth and Gabriel’s daughter and John’s younger sister. Baldwin writes that Gabriel “fondles” his daughter, and, presumably, it is Sarah whom he abuses.
Ruth
Elizabeth and Gabriel’s infant daughter and John’s baby sister.