Go Tell It on the Mountain

by

James Baldwin

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Elizabeth’s Father Character Analysis

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 daughter like “a queen.” Elizabeth’s father teaches her to never let the world see her cry and to “never ask for mercy.” He runs “a house,” which, according to Elizabeth’s aunt, is full of “wicked people.” Presumably, he runs a whorehouse, and because of this, Elizabeth’s aunt considers him unfit to raise a daughter. Elizabeth’s aunt considers him immoral because of the sexual nature of his employment and takes Elizabeth away from her loving father. After Elizabeth is forced to move to Maryland with her aunt, she never sees him again, and her childhood is ruined. Baldwin implies that Elizabeth’s father is a good man, and his job and its relation to sex do not alone make him an immoral sinner.

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

The Go Tell It on the Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Elizabeth’s Father or refer to Elizabeth’s Father. 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:
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Go Tell It on the Mountain PDF

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

The timeline below shows where the character Elizabeth’s Father 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
Elizabeth’s father was “different.” He was “young, and handsome, and kind, and generous,” and Elizabeth was “the... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Elizabeth’s father had been the one to teach Elizabeth never to let the world see her cry... (full context)
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
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 to raise a child.” He ran a “house,” where “wicked... (full context)
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
Elizabeth never “judged her father,” and “she did not accuse him.” She loved him, and while it was clear that... (full context)
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
Gender, the Patriarchy, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Elizabeth often wondered back then if she was no better than the women in her father’s “house,” and the North was difficult for other reasons as well. The North was just... (full context)