Go Tell It on the Mountain


James Baldwin

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Royal Character Analysis

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 Royal “because the line of the faithful [is] a royal line” and “his son would be a royal child.” Gabriel turns his back on Esther and Royal because he believes Esther to be a “harlot” and her womb a “forbidden darkness.” Gabriel thinks that “his holy seed” is wasted on Royal, and he denies the child his entire life. Royal goes North to Chicago as a young man and is killed when his throat is slashed by some “northern [n_____s].”

Royal Quotes in Go Tell It on the Mountain

The Go Tell It on the Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Royal or refer to Royal. 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: Gabriel’s Prayer Quotes

The living son had cursed him—bastard—and his heart was far from God; it could not be that the curse he had heard tonight falling from Roy’s lips was but the curse repeated, so far, so long resounding, that the mother of his first son had uttered as she thrust the infant from her—herself immediately departing, this curse yet on her lips, into eternity. Her curse had devoured the first Royal; he had been begotten in sin, and he had perished in sin; it was God’s punishment, and it was just. But Roy had been begotten in the marriage bed, the bed that Paul described as holy, and it was to him the Kingdom had been promised. It could not be that the living son was cursed for the sins of his father; for God, after much groaning, after many years, had given him a sign to make him know he was forgiven. And yet, it came to him that this living son, this headlong, living Royal, might be cursed for the sin of his mother, whose sin had never been truly repented; for that the living proof of her sin, he who knelt tonight, a very interloper among the saints, stood between her soul and God.

Related Characters: John, Gabriel, Elizabeth, Esther, Roy, Royal
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

“Yes,” he answered, rising, and turning away, “Satan tempted me and I fell. I ain’t the first man been made to fall on account of a wicked woman.”

“You be careful,” said Esther, “how you talk to me. I ain’t the first girl’s been ruined by a holy man, neither.”

“Ruined?” he cried. “You? How you going to be ruined? When you been walking through this town just like a harlot, and a-kicking up your heels all over the pasture? How you going to stand there and tell me you been ruined? If it hadn’t been me, it sure would have been somebody else.”

Related Characters: Gabriel (speaker), Esther (speaker), Royal
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

What I think is, I made a mistake, that's true, and I'm paying for it now. But don't you think you ain't going to pay for it—I don't know when and I don't know how, but I know you going to be brought low one of these fine days. 1 ain't holy like you are, but 1 know right from wrong.

I’m going to have my baby and I’m going to bring him up to be a man. And 1 ain’t going to read to him out of no Bibles and I ain't going to take him to hear no preaching. If he don't drink nothing but moonshine all his natural days he be a better man than his Daddy.

Related Characters: Esther (speaker), Gabriel, Royal
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

“I asked my God to forgive me,” he said. “But I didn’t want no harlot’s son.”

“Esther weren’t no harlot,” she said quietly.

“She weren’t my wife. I couldn’t make her my wife. I already had you”—and he said the last words with venom “Esther’s mind weren’t on the Lord—she’d of dragged me right on down to Hell with her.”

“She mighty near has,” said Deborah.

Related Characters: Gabriel (speaker), Deborah (speaker), Esther, Royal
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Go Tell It on the Mountain LitChart as a printable PDF.
Go Tell It on the Mountain PDF

Royal Character Timeline in Go Tell It on the Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character Royal 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: Gabriel’s Prayer
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
Gender, the Patriarchy, and Misogyny Theme Icon
...him when he called him a bastard, and Esther, the mother of Gabriel’s first son, Royal, had cursed him as well. This curse had “devoured” Royal—he was “begotten in sin, and... (full context)
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
Gender, the Patriarchy, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Gabriel’s affair with Esther lasted a mere nine days, and he isn’t sure exactly when Royal was conceived during that time. His guilt soon consumed him, and he refused to continue... (full context)
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Sex and Morality Theme Icon
...box with “her living son.” Esther’s parents took to raising the boy, who was named Royal, and Gabriel “watched his son grow up, a stranger to his father and a stranger... (full context)
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
“I wonder,” Deborah said to Gabriel one day, “why [Esther] called him Royal? You reckon that his daddy’s name?” Gabriel pretended not to know, but he did. He... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The morning that Gabriel learned of Royal’s death, Deborah was sick in bed as she often was. “I hear some mighty bad... (full context)
Faith and Religion Theme Icon
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
...quiet. “Esther weren’t no harlot,” she said. Deborah told Gabriel that she would have “raised [Royal] like [her] own,” and maybe he would still be living. “Honey,” Deborah said, “you better... (full context)