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Free MonkeyNotes-Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin-Free Notes
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PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

James Baldwin opens his novel Go Tell it on the Mountain with John entering his fourteenth year. On this day, he realizes that he should do something different from what his father expects him to do. From the time he is conscious, he has been told that he should become a preacher when he grew up. On this birthday, he is not sure whether he wants to satisfy others by becoming a man of the church.

John recollects certain incidents from his childhood that had cast an impression on his mind. He remembers their visits to the church, the Temple of the Fire Baptized every Sunday at Harlem. His father was the deacon of the church and thus, it was an occasion to visit the church. They would all dress up in their best clothes and walk through the streets passing the hospital where his brothers and sisters were born. After reaching the church, they would seat themselves in different portions of the church according to their age groups. John and his brother, Roy occupied their places with other boys of their age group and were attended by Elisha, the young but talented preacher.

On his birthday on Saturday, John wakes up with a fond hope that his family members would come to wish him. However, when no such thing happens, he goes back to sleep and gets up very late. He hears voices from the kitchen. Roy is arguing with his mother about his fatherís attitude. John enters the kitchen hesitantly and waits for a special breakfast. Once more he is disappointed. He eats the routine fare as he listens to his brotherís rebellious words. When his mother asks him to clean the drawing room, he reluctantly starts doing his job.


John is distressed that even on his birthday he is asked to do work like any other day. He does his job listlessly and feels exhausted after finishing it. His mother enters the room and surprises him by wishing him a happy birthday. She also gives him some money to spend it on himself. John feels overjoyed and goes out to enjoy himself. He walks over to the Central Park and climbs over a hill to view the city of New York. He is overawed by the immensity of the city and craves for the good things of life. In such a mood, he walks down to mid-town Manhattan and towards the cinema halls. He buys a ticket at one of the cinema halls and watches a movie with excitement. However, after the show, he feels guilty for indulging in worldly pleasures.

Nearing home, he observes Sarah running to the medical store. He fears trouble at home. Sarah mentions about Royís accident as he enters the house. He notices that aunt Clarence had arrived. Inside, he notices his brother lying on the bed and his parents attending on him. His father questions him about his absence and informs about Royís encounter with white boys who had punished him. Gabriel is angry with his wife for allowing Roy to go out but Florence chides her brother for being authoritative. When Elizabeth tries to defend herself, Gabriel slaps her on the face. Roy is outraged and curses his father. Gabriel feels insulted and beats his wounded son. John feels revolted by the scene and hates his father for it. He leaves for the church to fulfil his evening duties.

As he cleans up the floor, he keeps thinking of his fatherís attitude. He hates his father for his arrogance. In the mean time, Elisha arrives to perform his chores. He teases John for being clumsy in his cleaning work. John gets provoked and challenges Elisha for a duel. Elisha is taken unawares as John overpowers him and deals him blows. However, he brings the matter under control. John feels sorry for his action and regains his composure, though he is still bitter about his father. After the Sisters of the church arrive, they commend John on his work and bless him. Shortly afterwards, Gabriel enters the hall followed by his wife and sister. John is surprised to find his aunt at the church.

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