Study Guide

Go Tell It on the Mountain Violence

By James Baldwin


Harlem in 1935, at least as Go Tell It On the Mountain presents it, is a pretty violent place. Whether it's boys getting stabbed in the streets or wives and children being beaten in their homes, no one seems to be safe. The root of all of this violence seems to be racism and poverty.

This violence of the city is traced back to violence of the country, the South after the Civil War. Whether it's lynch mobs or rape, the countryside was not a safe place for black people. In some cases that's what sent them north, to the city, but it seems that they weren't able to leave the violence behind.

Questions About Violence

  1. What is the difference between Gabriel's violence against his family and the violence of Roy's stabbing, if any?
  2. Why doesn't John stand up to Gabriel when he slaps his mother and beats his brother?
  3. How do the reactions to Roy's stabbing differ between the family members?
  4. Is Gabriel responsible for Esther and Royal's deaths? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The novel shows the violence that plagues the black community as a legacy of slavery.

In the novel, violence is one of the most basic forms of communication between the characters.