Go Tell It on the Mountain

by

James Baldwin

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Elizabeth’s Aunt Character Analysis

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, and she treats her niece badly. Elizabeth refers to her aunt as “second” in as “series of disasters” that ruined her childhood. Elizabeth’s aunt believes that Elizabeth’s father, who runs “a house”—presumably a whorehouse—is not a “fit person to raise a child.” Elizabeth’s aunt assumes that Elizabeth’s father is immoral because his job involves sex, and therefore sin, and even though he is a good father and treats Elizabeth exceedingly well, Elizabeth is forced to leave him. Elizabeth’s aunt is a pious woman who diligently worships God, but she is cruel and judgmental, like Gabriel, which Baldwin implies is a sin as well.

Elizabeth’s Aunt Quotes in Go Tell It on the Mountain

The Go Tell It on the Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Elizabeth’s Aunt or refer to Elizabeth’s Aunt. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Go Tell It on the Mountain published in 2013.
Part 2: The Prayers of the Saints: Elizabeth’s Prayer Quotes

No, she did not accuse him; but she accused her aunt, and this from the moment she understood that her aunt had loved her mother, but did not love him. This could only mean that her aunt could not love her, either, and nothing in her life with her aunt ever proved Elizabeth wrong. It was true that her aunt was always talking of how much she loved her sister’s daughter, and what great sacrifices she had made on her account, and what great care she took to see to it that Elizabeth should grow up a good, Christian girl. But Elizabeth was not for a moment fooled, and did not, for as long as she lived with her, fail to despise her aunt. She sensed that what her aunt spoke of as love was something else—a bribe, a threat, an indecent will to power. She knew that the kind of imprisonment that love might impose was also, mysteriously, a freedom for the soul and spirit, was water in the dry place, and had nothing to do with the prisons, churches, laws, rewards, and punishments, that so positively cluttered the landscape of her aunt’s mind.

Page Number: 182-183
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard said that they would marry as soon as he had saved some money. But since he was going to school at night and made very little money, their marriage, which she had thought of as taking place almost as soon as she arrived, was planned for a future that grew ever more remote. And this presented her with a problem that she had refused, at home in Maryland, to think about, but from which, now, she could not escape: the problem of their life together. […] She had kept, precariously enough, what her aunt referred to as her pearl without price while she had been with Richard down home. This, which she had taken as witness to her own feminine moral strength, had been due to nothing more, it now developed, than her great fear of her aunt, and the lack, in that small town, of opportunity. Here, in this great city where no one cared, where people might live in the same building for years and never speak to one another, she found herself, when Richard took her in his arms, on the edge of a steep place: and down she rushed, on the descent uncaring, into the dreadful sea.

Related Characters: Elizabeth, Richard, Elizabeth’s Aunt
Related Symbols: Mountains
Page Number: 190-191
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Go Tell It on the Mountain LitChart as a printable PDF.
Go Tell It on the Mountain PDF

Elizabeth’s Aunt Character Timeline in Go Tell It on the Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character Elizabeth’s Aunt appears in Go Tell It on the Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: The Prayers of the Saints: Elizabeth’s Prayer
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...isn’t sure who is crying. The song the congregation begins to sing had been Elizabeth’s aunt’s favorite. “The consecrated cross I’ll bear / Till death shall set me free,” the church... (full context)
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Sex and Morality Theme Icon
Gender, the Patriarchy, and Misogyny Theme Icon
If Elizabeth’s aunt is still alive, Elizabeth thinks, she must be very old by now. She never knew... (full context)
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...last time she saw him, before she was sent to Maryland to live with her aunt. (full context)
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Sex and Morality Theme Icon
After Elizabeth’s mother died, Elizabeth’s aunt insisted Elizabeth move in with her. She said Elizabeth’s father was not a “fit person... (full context)
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...“she did not accuse him.” She loved him, and while it was clear that her aunt had loved her mother, she didn’t love Elizabeth. She was cruel to Elizabeth and treated... (full context)
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...Maryland suddenly in 1919 and worked at a local grocery store where Elizabeth and her aunt shopped. He “was very thin, and beautiful, and nervous—high strung,” Elizabeth had thought. He was... (full context)
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Once, Elizabeth had gone into the store without her aunt, and Richard had flirted with her. He later asked her if she still remembered that... (full context)
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...to come with him so they could get married. Elizabeth agreed, and she told her aunt she would be moving to New York to live with Madame Williams, a “respectable female... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Gender, the Patriarchy, and Misogyny Theme Icon
...This was a problem for Elizabeth. Back in Maryland, under the watchful eye of her aunt, Elizabeth had guarded her “pearl with price,” but in the city where no one cared... (full context)