Adolescent conversions in works by John Updike, Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin

Diploma Thesis, 1991

68 Pages

Free online reading


1. Introduction
1.2. Identity
1.3. Initiation
1.4. Conversion

2. "Pigeon Feathers" (1962) by John Updike (1932-?)
2.1. Plot
2.2. "Olinger"
2.3. Religion
2.4. Characters
2.5. Alienation
2.6. Initiaton
2.6.1. Search
2.6.2. Self-Help
2.6.3. Death-Vision
2.6.4. Darkness - Light
2.6.5. Beauty
2.6.6. Death - Life
2.7. David's Conversion
2.8. After Conversion

3. The Violent Bear It Away (1960) 20 by Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)
3.1. Plot
3.1.2. Title
3.2. Religion
3.3. Characters
3.3.1. Tarwater
3.3.2. Mason and Tarwater
3.3.3. Rayber and Tarwater
3.4. Alienation
3.5. Initiation
3.5.1. Country - City
3.5.2. Fire Free Will
3.5.3. Death - Life Baptism
3.5.4. Ironic Voice
3.5.5. Bread of Life
3.6. Tarwater's Conversion

4. Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) by James Baldwin (1924-1987)
4.1. Plot
4.1.2. Title
4.2. Religion
4.3. Characters
4.3.1. Alienation
4.3.2. Gabriel Gabriel's Conversion
4.3.3. Gabriel - John - God
4.3.4. Gabriel - John - Elisha
4.3.5. Florence's Conversion
4.4. Initiation
4.4.1. Search for Identity
4.4.2. City
4.5. "Threshing-Floor"
4.5.1. Darkness - Light
4.5.2. Ironic Voice
4.6. John's Conversion
4.7. After Conversion



Adolescence is the period or process of change of an immature, young person towards the height of his physical and psychological development. However, the spirirtual and mental maturation is too often leift overlooked during the upbringing of the growing adolescent. Our three young heroes David Kern ("Pigeon Feathers"), Francis Marion Tarwater (The Violent Bear It Away) and John Grimes (Go, Tell It on the Mountain) are unpreparedly confronted with social injustice and search for a remedy for existing evil. Society does not provide any real aim or direction for our adolescents who seek identity, appreciation, security and love. Most of the values and purposes of existence they learn from their parents, friends, teachers, other authorities and institutions. None of them - not even the family as the center of a child's upbringing - can fully understand the young men's anxieties, anguishes, doubts and needs. Few educators achieve the goal of preparing their charges for the demands of life and of evoking the wish to become adult. Misunderstood in their strivings to find truth, order and meaning in life, they detach themselves from the masses, alienated, frustrated, stagnated. Can the question, "Who am I?" ever be answered?


Individual identity is the recognition of one's own values, characteristics, the penetration to one’s nucleus or heart, to the essence of being. Like everybody else, David, Tarwater and John have certain ideas about their image which is shaped by others. Their actions and personalities, partly built up through imitation of their models and expectations of authorities, are strongly influenced by the picture others convey of them.

Facing ignorance, violence, insult and lack of love, our growing boys feel abandoned. The ensuing bitterness and hurt attack their core, their self-esteem and provoke feelings of inferiority. However, the ego which looks for acknowledgement and appreciation, is very creative in filling the vaccuum and meeting the spiritual needs. In order to compensate for their deficiencies, our three adolescents chase ficticious goals. They escape from loneliness and responsibility through doubtful worldly pleasures, such as drugs, alcohol and movies. Furthermore, they take refuge In their fantasy and intelligence and resort to defiance.


David, Tarwater and John are alienated wanderers, estranged observers, intelligent and sensitive young rebels, who are looking for a foundation to build on, values to cherish, a trustworthy friend to lean and rely on, and the absolute truth to believe in. For each of them, a change of heart, a real breakthrough has to be experienced to release their isolated ”1" and their imprisoned souls. This transformation of the inner self, however, requires committment. Giving the control of their lives to another person threatens them; they fear this would restrict their imaginary freedom. Unwilling to be subordinate to any authority, our youths react with retreat, repudiation and rebellion. Instead of freeing the heart, they try to protect it by fortifying the wall around it. Inevitably, they take revenge and treat those who are not able to give them the needed and expected love with scorn and condescension. They assume personal control of their lives and struggle to reach God by their own efforts - and fail. The original sin of wanting to be like God, of seizing power over life and death, and of independently deciding what is good or bad, captures them in a "Sisyphus-like" existence. The boys' quest is a religious one and expressed by their "hunger for unity in the face of a disordered universe."1 Fortunately, our seekers do not remain in this perpetually chaotic, hopeless and absurd state of existence. They cannot accept that the universe, the earth, men are an accidental accumulation of circumstances, but realize the existence of an intelligent creator who keeps the universe in order.2 They revolt against nihilism as well as against institutionalized religion. Although still keeping a firm hold on their egos, an unconscious yearning for a "mystical fusion"3 and unity with a person, with "forces of existence" 3, with God Himself, is subliminally hidden in their soul. The desire to let go of the independent self "to be totally embraced and to embrace totally"4 becomes noticeable.

It is hard, but liberating at last, to give up one’s pride and to commit oneself to an authority - however benevolent he might be. As long as they are not ready to change their ways they remain in darkness, blindness, arrogance, uncertainty and guilt. The final admission and realization of their guilt and sins is an essential step towards their achievement of maturation. These journeys of our juvenile protagonists from ignorance towards self-awareness and self­realization is called "initiation".5 The initiation process leads the traveller from the loss of illusions, of innocence or the old self through a change of mind and attitudes towards reality, adulthood, and a new life. This rebirth is to be accomplished in a social, individual and religious way and is often connected with a ritual.6 The ritual passage can be a symbolic or an actual one in the form of 1."separation"7 or departure from the usual surroundings, 2. "transition" 7 or the period of recognition and metamorphosis, and 3."incorporation" 7 or return and rebirth.


Conversion therefore means an adaptation, or better an alteration of character, opinions and beliefs. A spiritual conversion in the Christian sense, which will be emphasized in this paper, always requires a decision to concsiously step out of the depths of the dark demonic world and admit one's sinful nature. The essential next step of remorse, repentence and reconciliation will be rewarded by divine revelation and saving grace. "The Bible teaches that the new birth is an infusion of divine life into the human soul" 8 to give it illumination, perpetual life, and fulfillment by becoming one with God. The experience of God's presence brings forth regeneration, freedom and love. According to the Christian belief, God has bridged the gap between Himself and His creatures through Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world [including John, Tarwater, David, you and me] that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."9 (John 3, 16).

This unconditional, everlasting, forgiving love is - to use Martin Luther King's words - a "creative [power] so beautifully exemplified in the life of our Christ, [and] the most potent instrument available in mankind's quest for peace and security."10 Jesus, the center of Christian faith, claims of Himself to be "the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14, 6).

His sacrifice on the cross has overcome death, the power of evil "in the name of new life".11

2. "PIGEON FEATHERS" (1962) BY JOHN UPDIKE (1932-?):

2.1. PLOT;

This title story of the collection "Pigeon Feathers" deals with the sensitive and introspective fourteen-year-old David Kern who feels uprooted through the move from Olinger to Firetown. In glancing through a sobering report of the life of Christ in Herbert George Wells' "The Outline of History", David is plunged into serious religious doubts and overcome by mortal agony.

With his metaphysical questions, his search for truth and his struggle to affirm his Christian belief, he only bumps into lack of understanding. Neither his parents nor the clergyman Reverend Dobson are capable of providing him with adequate answers. It is not until he shoots pigeons and then studies and detects the beautiful harmonious structure of their feathers that he wins back his faith in God, the Creator, and everlasting life.

2.2. "OLINGER":

"Pigeon Feathers" (1962) and other short stories, collected in Olinger Stories - A Selection were originally published in the "New Yorker" magazine and in the form of a book in the collections The Same Door (1959) and Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories.12

Olinger is a town near Philadelphia, "haunted by rural memories, accents and superstitions."13 Like Updike's birthplace, its setting is in Pennsylvania, yet it is also "a state of mind", writes the author, "of my mind, and belongs entirely to me."14 To confirm this statement, he says that "We must write where we stand; wherever we do stand, there is life; and an imitation of the life we know, however narrow, is our only ground."15 In the Foreword to his Olinger Stories, Updike remembers a similar move like David's from his familiar hometown, Shillington, to Plowtown, which had a tremendous effect on his maturation. This move leads him like David into a state of alienation.

Updike's work which contains autobiographic elements intends to entertain as well as to instruct. His writing as an "act of mimesis", aims to "rectif[y],...chasten and purif[y]"16 the world. To him "initially art was tied in with theology and has to do with an ideal world" 17 covering the "Three Great Things" of his life and his literary works: art, sex and religion. 18


Updike's profound religious vision which adorns his skill as a writer is clearly influenced by the twentieth century theologian Karl Barth.19 Updike himself characterizes Barth's theology as having "two faces - the No and the Yes"20, refusing "humanistic, demythologized, merely ethical Christianity" 19, but affirming and approving of "[t]he real God, the God men do not invent, [who] is ... wholly other... [and] can reach us. This He has done as the Christ of Biblical revelation". 19 Updike's Kruppenbach (Rabbit, Run) shows similarities to Barth's belief when he critisizes hypocrisy and insists that man cannot reach God through good works but has to wait on God to be touched by Him: "There is where comfort comes from: faith... There is nothing but Christ for us. All the rest, all this decency and busyness, is nothing. It is Devil's work."21

Although Updike's faith is not always that concrete and solid, Christianity as a response to nihilism and emptiness evidently runs through his writings. To him "faith is a leap out of total despair"22, knowing that the universe and life is not a coincidence, but that there is "something up there".23


Like Salinger, Updike tells his stories repeatedly from the perspective of growing adolescents. The names and situations of these sensitive, intelligent, often lonely boys are different, but they are "at bottom the same boy." 24 Although Updike's characters have their own personalities, they "all blur into John Updike" 25, showing the author's complexity. By depicting the adolescent’s world, Updike criticizes modern civilization and the monotony of everyday life. 26 Daily situations become the starting point for "epiphanic" 27 experiences or divine manifestations revealing the significance of "little everyday wonders." 27 Many of Updike's heroes like David reflect the author's religious attitudes, doubts and search for absolute truth and the purposes of life. Their belief is very subjective and shaky, yet they "claim the existence of a Divine Being". 28 The lack of values and meaning in society and the failure of paragons impell Updike’s characters to start a quest to escape out of meaninglessness and chaos.


The very first sentence of the narration expresses David’s confusion and detachment caused by the move from town to country: "When they moved to Firetown, things were upset, displaced, rearranged."29 Not only "things" are in disorder, but also DavidTs mind is bewildered and dejected.

He has to cope with a new environment and to digest Wells' blasphemic text, which starts both his religious crisis and his quest for truth and identity. The author and rationalistic historian H.G. Wells explains in "The Outline of History" (1920) Jesus as an "obscure political agitator, a kind of hobo," (PF, p.118) who became a myth and was erroneously credited with possessing supernatural powers. This account of Jesus shocks and upsets David who has never before doubted Christ’s divinity and cannot imagine that such "fantastic falsehoods...had been permitted to exist in an actual human brain." (PF, p.119). Obviously for the first time, David is confronted with a philosophy opposed to the teachings of the Christian faith. He is upset and convinced that such a "blasphemy" (PF, p,119) is not to be accepted since it threatens the concept and universal order of David's hope and existence. "Caught in a vaccuum of doubt"30, David desperately hunts for arguments to falsify Wells' assertions. In his initiation journey, David asks his Sunday School teacher and his parents for religious advice - in vain. In his spiritual and geographical alienation, he learns with resignation: "They none of them believed. He was alone." (PF, p.139).


2.6.1. SEARCH;

As is characteristic for Updike's heroes, David searches for trustworthy lasting religious concepts and for freedom and his true identity. Similar to Rabbit (Rabbit, Run), David wants to believe but has to continue his search unguided. David’s shaken belief makes him look for "the hint, the nod" (PF, p.139) to regain his faith. Like O'Connor’s Tarwater, who is driven by his subliminal spiritual hunger, or Baldwin's John, who longs for a loving Father, or Updike’s Rabbit, who vaguely but honestly believes that "somewhere there is something better for him"31, David needs a saving answer. Society, other people and ironically, religious representatives who could most likely assist truth-seekers cannot help. The church, or people who consider themselves to be Christians, fail to guide David in his search.

2.6.2. SELFHELP:

In order to scrutinize and restore his belief, David refers to The Webster' s Dictionary to find out the meaning of "soul". Its abstract definition, as follows: "separate in nature from the body and usually held to be separable in existence" (PF, p.126) comforts David only for a short time. He yearns for a perceptible sign from God or Jesus Himself to be "sealed in, safe." (PF, p.128). To receive a proof of His existence, David "lifted his hands high into the darkness ... and begged Christ to touch them...[T]he faintest, quickest grip would be final for a lifetime." (PF, p.128). Sensing nothing, David is uncertain whether he has been touched by Christ or not.

Maybe disappointed, but not discouraged, David takes a step further in his strivings by confidently asking Reverend Dobson about resurrection and Heaven. Instead of helping David to surmount his uncertainty, Dobson confuses David further by his inadequate answer. Like Updike's Caldwell and Chiron (The Centaur), Reverend Dobson imagines Heaven as something indefinite, as a person's good reputation and moral values living on after his death. Unable to convey a concrete understanding of the Christian idea of eternal life, Dobson is an example "of the failure of Christianity as man practices and preaches it." 32

David is getting angry and bitter since he "was being made a fool" (PF, p.133), and sees himself and Christianity "betrayed" (PF, p.134) - even though unintentionally and out of ignorance. The church, including its representative cannot help him along. And although he hates institutionalized Christianity with its "fusty churches, creaking hymns, ugly Sunday-school teachers [-like Dobson?-]" (PF, p.135), he cannot help being fascinated by Christianity's promise of making "every good and real thing ...possible." (PF, p.135). Similar to Rabbit, he finds comfort and delight in the sight of a church, a clergyman or anything "religious". As it is typical for Updike's "other searchers" 33 , David does not give up "to look to the Church" 33 although it has been a failure for him.

Still pursuing truth, he consults his grandfather's Bible to look for a passage about paradise in heaven. Like the young narrator of Updike's "Lifeguard", who is "unconvinced of ...theological explanantions, [also David] ...seeks through Christian sources ... the solution to the puzzle of life." 34 However, he is caught by his mother who tries to deter him from his "greedy" (PF, p.137) desire to know God more.

His mother has her own philosophy of God whom she thinks to be embedded in Nature and who is nothing more than a product of human mythology. "Like most of Updike's women, the mother is associated with the archtypal pattern of the 'earth mother'" 35 who senses a divine manifestation in the beauty of the land and extols Nature and farmlife. Comparable to Updike's Mrs. Robinson’s (Of the Farm), also Mrs. Kern's vague faith is dependent on the nearness of nature to put her in a phantom paradise. Their sons, both Joey and David are not satisfied with their mothers' woolly devotion to and belief in the country as a substitute for God. David is not willing to accept this naive religion that denies an afterlife, and equates Nature with God or the Creation with the Creator.

Following the advice of his mother, David reads Plato's Parable of the Cave, knowing that "it would do no good" (PF, p.138). This philosophic, non-Christian composition suggests that every perception and every belief is just an illusion and, thus denies that the Truth or Heaven can ever be grasped. Is that true? Is there no real sense in life? Is death the end?

David's father, a disillusioned, rational atheist tells his enquiring son that he should not "give it a thought, ... I'll be lucky if I live till tomorrow and I'm not worried... Hell, I think death is a wonderful thing." (PF, p.139). With his urban preference, his nescience, unbelief and intellectualism, he symbolizes - like Tarwater's uncle Rayber - the blackness and blindness of city life. David's father refuses to worry about life or afterlife and only contributes to David's lack of security, his isolation and the confusion that makes him remain in his dark "deep hole".(PF, p.139). David is beyond any human help and hardens his heart with hatred and bitterness against those who fail to recognize the seriousness of his spiritual questions and to protect himself "against death." (PF, p.139).

To flee from his isolation and anguish, David tries to divert his thoughts and finds - at least momentarily - comfort and distraction in the crowd. However, he unmasks the godless city life as a "cheap paradise" (PF, p.140) and the careless masses as "doomed to die". (PF, p„140). He is cheered by any hint of hope, such as the sight of a priest or a church, "that somewhere, at some time, someone had recognized that we cannot, cannot submit to death." (PF, p.140).


David realizes that people avoid facing death and therefore try to dismiss its reality. Unsuccessfully striving to find enlightening arguments against H.G. Wells' "complacent march of these black words" (PF, p.119), David lets himself draw to the "enemy's" (PF, p.120) blasphemous, annihilating position: "Hope bases vast premises on foolish accidents, and reads a word where in fact only a scribble exists." (PF, p.120) David's "conversion" to a philosophy or religion without Jesus shatters him, and he is plagued by nightmarish thoughts of decay. A vision of his own death without an afterlife is horrifying him. Comparable to John, David imagines himself being in the grave "blind and silent" (PF, p.123), godforsaken, lost, without any hope that his body and soul will be resurrected.

This shocking and terrifying mental image of death without immortality represents the peak of David's religious doubts as well as the beginning of his search for the reaffirmation of his Christian faith.


David feels lost and little in the vastness of the universe's darkness. He is haunted by a second death-vision, where he sees a crack of light on the door, imagining himself in the last minutes before death. The darkness might be interpreted as man's ignorance of death and a life afterwards or David's separation of God. The light provides David's despair with a glimmer of hope.

In the barn to perform his mother's task of shooting the annoying pigeons, our adolescent takes his last step towards maturation and conversion. The barn symbolizes a microcosm of darkness penetrated by rays of light "like stars" (PF, p.147). Comparable with his short story "The Astronomer", Updike uses stars as a sign of religious hope and promise. David's solitude and confrontation with decay resembles his first death-vision - this time, however, he is not the victim but the perpetrator. Both situations are vital for his spiritual maturation. His first encounter with death and darkness makes him start his search for Truth or Light; the experience in the barn lets him find "it".

That David "stepped with his rifle into the light" (PF, p.149) symbolically confirms his maturation and cancels Plato's opinion that one can never reach the light.

2.6.5. BEAUTY:

Contemplating the brightly coloured dog's hair and the intricate pattern decorating every tiny feather of the pigeon David has shot, he comes to the conclusion that an intelligent, imaginative Being must have created such beauty.

He also gains assurance "that a God with such an abundance of skill, such generosity in His creation, and such infinite love would not kill"36 but give him everlasting life. Similarly, Updike’s Peter (The Centaur), who is fascinated by the complicated structure of snowflakes, and Joey (Of the Farm), who marvels at the pattern of raindrops, sense divine abundance, beauty and grace. Like David, they become convinced of their own value and of the existence of an omnipotent, life-giving, benevolent God.37

It is characteristic for Updike to put emphasis on the small things of life, especially of nature in order to reveal to man his own worth and the presence of a caring God, or at least of a divine "Something". The author is sure that "The little everyday wonders"38, the details convert false ideas and help the searching and attentive observer to find dignity, comfort, joy and the saving answer.

2.6.6. PERTH - LIFE;

David's mortal agony and his religious insecurity is remedied and removed through a "strange union of 1) an act of killing, and 2) a subsequent transcendental insight into the unity of the universe."39 The interaction of death and life repeatedly occurs throughout Updike's writings and will appear also in the conversions of Tarwater and John.

Killing the pigeons in the old barn, David "felt like a beautiful avenger ...[and] had the sensation of a creator." (PF, p.147). This violent act of killing evokes the sensation of power, pleasure and superiority in David. Although he has initially fought against taking any life, the killing becomes a means of giving vent to his accumulated anger and frustration. The aggression he can release against the birds is actually directed against himself since his shooting of the pigeons is accompanied by suicidal thoughts of shooting himself. Transformed to the Christian belief that the death of the "flesh", the loss of the evil, ego-centered self brings forth new life, David's vision of self-murder might symbolically be considered as his rebirth. Death, as Taylor suggests becomes "a prerequisite for life, and loss ... a prerequisite for gain."40 David gains "certainty" (PF, p.150) of an afterlife and belief in God’s presence, compassion and grace.


David experiences Jesus' promise of a new, changed life as well as of an everlasting life: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11, 25-26). David does.

He has received "Christ's [gentle] touch" (PF, p.128) which he has desired and struggled for so long. David's serious and honest search is rewarded with another biblical promise: " will find Him, if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul ..., for the Lord, your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you or destroy you ..." (Deuteronomy 4, 29 and 31a). His newly won insight lets him conclude that the universe, which includes his own existence, is not there by chance but has a purpose and reflects God's beauty. David finds his identity, knowing he is an important part in or of God's creation, and understanding that death is part of life, but not the end. He does not need to fear death any longer because it will open him the door to eternal paradise.


David reappears in the concluding story "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, a Dying Cat, a Traded Car" of Updike's collection Pigeon Feathers. As an adult, he has lost his naive, childlike faith and thinks himself caught in an immense, absurd, meaningless universe. His soul rebels against God, making Him responsible for his anguish. Updike's Christianity that becomes intermingled with irony, doubts and cynicism is reflected in the older David, who concludes that "the God who permitted me this fear was unworthy of existence. Each instant my horror was extended amplified God’s nonexistence."41 In his resignation and distance from the God he met as an adolescent, the grown-up David rejects that faith which requires trust in God's promises and actions since it "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11, 1). David's new religious crisis - more serious than ever - and his renunciation of the good Creator show that the understanding of God demands more than a momentary feeling of spiritual delight and insight. Faith in the Christian sense will decline when not nourished by God's Word, the Bible, and by a relationship with a personal God.

The adolescent David has overcome his religious doubts and fear of death. He is not immune to further religious crises, and his faith might be tempted or even die. However, there is the chance for his belief to be reborn.


3.1. PLOT;

The adolescent, Francis Marion Tarwater, is brought up by his great-uncle Mason Tarwater on Powderhead, a remote farm and sparsely populated place. Mason, an old prophet kidnapped Tarwater as a young child to prevent him from the polluting rationalistic atheism of his uncle Rayber, a schoolteacher. Raised to be a prophet like his great-uncle, Tarwater is given two missions: He shall provide Mason with a proper Christian burial and continue the old man’s vocation to baptize Rayber's idiot son Bishop.

3.1,2. TITLE:

The title of the novel is taken from the King James Bible: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away." (Matthew 11, 12).

The "violent” can be seen as the enemies of God, like the "stranger" who mocks God and leads Tarwater astray, or like Rayber who desperately tries to "convert" his nephew to his philosophy of self-redemption. However, this interpretation is not very convincing since neither the stranger nor Rayber - who is not capable of using violence anyway - can finally take the kingdom of heaven away from their victim.

A "violent" who takes the heavenly kingdom "by force" (Revised Standard Version of the Bible) might be Mason, the mighty, submissive, devout believer and prophet. He zealously passes on the gospel of Christ's salvation and uses violence to protect his great-nephew from God's enemies.

An alternative explanation could be that in days or moments of God's disclosure a called human being, like Tarwater, is powerfully drawn by God's mercy.42 Violent, evil actions serve as an instrument to reveal the vital importance of divine grace to the reader. Flannery O'Connor is convinced that "[t]he writer has to make the corruption believable before he can make the grace meaningful."43 She regards violence as a constructive as well as a destructive force dependent on the person and his intentions. Violence forces a quick and intuitive reaction exposing the best or worst within a character. In the comment on her short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" she states that "Violence is a force which can be used for good or evil, and among other things taken by it is the kingdom of heaven."44


The central issue of all the works of Flannery O'Connor is the Christian belief that man's soul is redeemed through God's grace as expressed through the death on the cross of His Son Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Although evil is to be found everywhere in this world, man's life "has ...been found by God to be worth dying for,"45 the author states. God's saving love and grace completed through the sacrifice of Christ is offered to every person. The gift of grace occurs in most of O'Connor's stories, but is often rejected. Although the redemption of Christ is a unique historical happening, it has eternal value and relevance to all mankind. O'Connor is convinced that "Christ should be the center of life and the individual soul."46 In view of her Christian belief, she knows that neither good works nor one's efforts can redeem a man's soul.

Facing a society that seeks to save itself and detaches itself from the source of its true being and love which is Christ, the author has to use "grotesque" elements to stir up the "deaf, dumb, and blind reader."47

O'Connor's stories succeed also apart from their religious content, but are enriching to those readers who do not reject the Christian concept of divine grace.


Although her heroes often have symbolic function and represent religious or atheist attitudes they cannot simply be classified as innocent or evil. Religious or not, they are torn between "emotional death and violence, confusion and certainty, detachment from human contact and domination by it."48 All her characters are separated from God through their sin and guilt. However, not all are conscious of that. A distinction can be made between those who know God's purpose, receive His mercy and change their ways; and those who decide to believe in their own strength and "think they can save themselves."49 The characters accepting divine saving grace truly convert and follow their mission. Their conversion has absolute significance and represents the climax of their lives.

Although these prophet-like, God-driven people may appear as weird, distorted, unworldly or even as "psychic cripples" 50 to some readers or critics, they do not differ considerably from you and me. In order to lead the spiritually blind reader to remorse, O'Connor, as a devoted Catholic, has to exaggerate her message of the Christian concept of hope and salvation. Nullifying arguments that her characters are without hope, the author says in an interview that "my characters are described as despairing only by superficial critics. Very few of my characters despair and those who do, don't reflect my views. You have to get the writer's view by looking at the novel as a whole."51

3.3.1. TARWATER;

The adolescent hero, Tarwater, sets the dramatic action of the novel in motion by resisting his mission to become a prophet like his "foolish"52 great-uncle. His future as a missionary is shaped by old Mason from the beginning of the novel. Similar to O'Connor's Hazel Motes (Wise Blood) and Baldwin's John Grimes, Tarwater rejects to ever become like his religious educator. Convinced that he can act - unlike Rayber - and that he "ain't hungry for the bread of life" (TVBA, p.211) - unlike Mason, the adolescent rebel wants to stress or prove his superiority and independence. However, the more he tries to leave his task to baptize the idiot child, the closer he is taken towards it. It is striking in O'Connor’s works that "God whose habits are strange beyond knowing ...gets His way in the end."53 Young Tarwater becomes an unmanageable tool, a "reluctant vessel"54 of God's plans. Experiencing God's grace, our adolescent is drawn to his mission and turns away from his rebellion. He finally accepts his role as a prophet and fufills God’s will to baptize Bishop and to "GO WARN THE CHILDREN OF GOD OF THE TERRIBLE SPEED OF MERCY." (TVBA, p.242).


Mason who sees himself as a prophet, as an elect, and as a mouthpiece of God shows self-righteous and furious features. Comparable to John Grime's father Gabriel, old Tarwater's thunder against the secular, godless world and his violent efforts to convert its ways of damnation, resembles the Old Testament God of wrath who exhorts people to turn away from their wickedness.

Mason has to fight as well against the "old Adam" 55 within him and must be purified from his religious pride and selfishness - like Gabriel - in order to become a credible example of faith and a trustworthy representative of God. Rayber, the enemy and counterpart of Mason, has pejoratively called him "a type that’s almost extinct!" (TVBA, p.15) whereas the author herself defends Mason as the "hero of ’The Violent Bear it Away’, and I'm right behind him 100 per cent."56 His belief is basically valid and substantial, but the way he displays his religion is deformed and extreme. Seeing himself as a true and genuine prophet, he is convinced that he is God's appropriate instrument to instruct Tarwater and to lead him to conversion. Although his intentions are good, his violence makes Tarwater fear and reject the old prophet. Tarwater, with the zealous Tarwater blood flowing within him, is plagued by the old man's expectations and commandments. Like Rayber, he is afraid of being overwhelmed by Mason's religious "madness". (TVBA, p.165). Although the boy tries to make a compromise and to flee from powerful Mason and God - who become one to him - he realizes that he cannot shake off Mason's impact nor overcome God's will.


Rayber represents the secular, scientific, materialistic world and appears like an ideology rather than an individual. His belief in his own capacities is a sign of moral blindness and pride increasing the gap between himself and God. He is guilty of the sin of self-redemption. His self-righteousness prevents him from recognizing his fallen nature since he is convinced that "if there's any way to be born again, it's a way that you accomplish yourself" (TVBA, p.194). He is also spiritually deaf to God's and to Mason's evangelistic words, symbolized by his hearing aid. Religon is just an invention of those who need something to hold on to, and like O'Connor's Sheppard ("The Lame Shall Enter First"), he is a "secular missionar[y] who see[s] technology and psychology as roads to salvation."57 The author uses Rayber's weak character to demonstrate her view-point that ”[t]here is, finally, no salvation in works, whatever form they may take, or in self."58

Rayber constantly tries to liberate himself from his uncle's "idiot hopes ...and foolish violence" (TVBA, p.73) by preaching the other extreme of rebirth "through your own efforts, your intelligence." (TVBA, p.195). Trapped and paralysed in his unbelief and denying any supernatural power and irrational impulse, he relies on his limited mind and elevates common sense to his god. Rayber desperately tries to persuade the young Tarwater into adapting his philosohy of reason and forgetting the old man’s religious madness. Like the voice of the "stranger", Rayber endeavours to prevent Marion's becoming a successor of Mason. To convince Tarwater of the correctness of his standpoint, Rayber degrades the old man's belief as nonsensical superstition and tries to prove that Mason is a false prophet who has chosen himself. Both the schoolteacher as well as the adolescent seek to free themselves from the bonds of the old prophet whose influence lives on after his death. "You need to be saved right here now from the old man and everything he stands for. And I'm the one who can save you." (TVBA, p.174). With this arrogant over-estimation of his abilities, Rayber calls himself the appropriate guide of the youth. However, Tarwater uncovers and rejects Rayber’s feebleness, impotence and lukewarmness which is illustrated in the following description of the adolescent: "The eyes were the eyes of the crazy student father, the personality was the old man's, and somewhere between the two, Rayber’s own image was struggling to survive and was not able to reach it." (TVBA, p.115). His distrust of Rayber's existentialism and shallowness prevents Tarwater from becoming too infected by it. He wants to demonstrate his independence by also negating Mason's fanaticism. Although Tarwater ignores and denies both ways and tries to make a compromise, he knows in his heart that he cannot escape from making a decision between Mason and Rayber, between God and the Devil, between salvation and damnation.


Tarwater1s distance from any doctrine and demonstration of independence actually lead him into a state of alienation. His displacement from the country into the city increases his spiritual estrangement. Nevertheless, Tarwater's interests - unusual for an average adolescent - lie almost exclusively in supernatural areas which also separates him from "normal", average people with their worldly concerns. Like John and David, Tarwater is also a displaced traveller searching for his identity, searching for "Something". Our alienated characters who are detached from God, from their identity, from their source "try to substitute one aspect of their lost wholeness, by which they try to reduce their displacement from God to a geographical ...matter."59


The conflict of Tarwater, as well as of David and John, between secularism and religion is intensified or symbolized by geographical changes and the tension between urban and rural life.

3.5.1. COUNTRY - CITY:

Powderhead, farmlife, the uncivilized, open countryside might be transferred to one's spiritual or metaphysical landscape, to "the home of religious experience". 60 Nature, as in "Pigeon Feathers", is the place of divine revelation and of refuge. Mason tries to keep his great-nephew on the farm to protect him from the claws of urban, worldly life. Tarwater denies his calling by escaping from the country, represented by Mason, towards the city, symbolized by Rayber. Our rebel tries to deaden the certainty of his call by temporarily focusing on superficial transitory things. However, when his uncle Rayber offers him worldly pleasures by showing him city life, Tarwater is obviously untouched by urban or earthly matters which seem unimportant and irrelevant to him.

A direct confrontation with evil makes him return to his former home. The shattering experience of being abused by a homosexual drives him back to Powderhead where his initiation journey has begun. His separation from the country and his sojourn in the evil violent urban world has changed him so much that he does not recognize the formerly familiar surroundings. Meanwhile, Powderhead has become "apocalyptic"61 in his deformed spiritual eyes since it appears to him like "a giant beast which might any moment ... send him rolling into the ditch below" (TVBA, p.137). The defeat of his defiant and proud self makes Tarwater available to God’s purposes. Moving away from his stained and haughty self, he finally submits to God and returns to "the self his [great- ]uncle created for him."62

Comparable to David's experience, it is Nature that makes Tarwater shamefully aware of God’s inescapable omnipresence with the stars and light again being signs of God. "He did not look up at the sky but he was unpleasantly aware of the stars ...[as if] some distant unmoving light was watching him." (TVBA, p.85).

3.5.2. FIRE:

Fire and its cleansing effect plays a very important part and builds the framework for the novel.

Tarwater who strongly resists his vocation has not rebelled against it from the beginning, knowing "that when he was called he would say, ’Here I am, Lord, ready!'" (TVBA, p.8). He is aware of his call as a prophet and compares himself to spiritual giants of the Old Testament like Moses, Joshua and Daniel, who all received God's call and power. Just as Moses heard God's voice through a burning bush, Tarwater wants the same sign to be offered to him, being convinced that on the day of his calling, "he would set the city astir, he would return with fire in his eyes" (TVBA, p.28).

Fire, often in connection with prophesy and a divine means of purification and revelation completely transforms the receiver of the message. In obedience and humility the prophet is to perform God's plan to save His people out of their captivity. Our adolescent, who is neither willing to be obedient nor prepared to humble himself before anybody, does not receive such a miraculous sign. Since his motives are mixed, he is not yet assigned to the responsibility a divine vocation always involves. Evidently, he is more attracted to the gifts than to the Giver, and more fascinated by the might than by the Almighty. He still is not really aware of the significance of conversion and prophesy. He might confuse conversion with "self-destruction"63 and answers with self-opinionatedness and revolt.

Old Tarwater's prophesy that "THE PROPHET I RAISE UP OUT OF THIS BOY WILL BURN [Rayber's] EYES CLEAN" (TVBA, p.147), is not fulfilled; Rayber remains blind, as the girl-preacher, Lucette says when realizing Rayber’s spiritual blindness and deafness: "The Word of God is a burning Word to burn you clean, burns man and child ...Be saved in the Lord's fire or perish in your own." (TVBA, p.134-35) Not Rayber's, but

Tarwater’s eyes are burnt clean by the consuming fire of God's mercy. Receiving God’s final revelation he has unconsciously always longed for, he realizes that it has not been his own power that let him receive Christ's "red-gold tree of fire" (TVBA, p.242), but the surrender to God's power. He finally admits his spiritual hunger for Christ and humbly falls down to receive His mercy and his mission. The adolescent's old identity of arrogant rebel is singed and refined to convert from the "reluctant vessel" into a useful ambassador of God's justice and mercy.

Tarwater used fire to demonstrate his refusal of the imposed identity and mission by initially burning the farmhouse with the old dead prophet in it. Fire occurs again at the turning point of Tarwater's turning back. Suffering evil and abuse, the adolescent wants to strip off and purge his sullied self by setting on fire the area where he has been raped. Finally fire is used to drive him to submission and conversion by revealing him his mission: "GO WARN THE CHILDREN OF GOD OF THE TERRIBLE SPEED OF MERCY." (TVBA, p.242). Now he is prepared and able to listen to, to understand and to follow God's speaking fire. Although facing a dark city, he feels like his ideal "Moses glimpsing the promised land." (TVBA, p.236). Fire that has also extinguished the devil "is the apocalyptic instrument of Tarwater's initiation into the new life of prophetic service."64 FREE WILL:

Various violent circumstances have to occur to lead our young heroes to a change of mind - to conversion.

Although Tarwater gives up his rebellion in the end, he is not a character without development or without free will; doomed to fatal predestination. He certainly is chosen and God obviously has a plan for him. The grace of God has taken away the veil of deception and blindness from Tarwater* s eyes to reveal his defiant self to him. God has had to "correct" him like the old Mason to make him an available tool. Divine mercy therefore serves to save Tarwater and to convert his heart and not to manipulate him or let him dance like a puppet.

As is characteristic for Flannery O'Connor's understanding of God, she lets God's will triumph over man's will without robbing the person of his own will. Tarwater has made use of his own evil will, but experiencing exterior as well as interior evil in the will of man, he finally decides to give it up and replace it by God's will. He now understands the need of fulfulling his great-uncle's prophesy to preach God's justice and mercy. As the philosopher Martin Buber puts it, "prophesy does not fix the future because its understanding of the transcendent is of a God who wants man to turn to Him with full freedom out of his hopelessness."65

3.5.3. DEATH - LIFE;

3-5.3.1. BAPTISM;

In the original Christian sense, baptism is the outward sign of an inner decision of having surrendered to Christ. The submerging into the water symbolizes the drowning or death of the old sinful self. The emerging as a new being is the sign of rebirth.

Tarwater is aware of his mission to baptize Bishop the very first moment he sees the child. He attempts to ignore his mission by treating the child violently in order to keep his distance and not to be "tempted" to perform his task. However, like Rayber he is mysteriously drawn to the idiot child. He cannot deal with the attraction towards Bishop, the goal of his call. Although denying it, Tarwater is actually preoccupied with baptizing the child. Ironically, the innocent child resembles the old prophet whose seed continues to live in Tarwater and in Bishop. The child has the same fish-like eyes as the old man, suggesting the traditional sign of Christianity and Christ's multiplication of the fishes and loaves. Bishop who repels as well as attracts both Tarwater and Rayber evokes feelings of love within Rayber which he, of course, tries to suppress and deny. The innocent idiot who is to Rayber a proof of God’s non-existence, actually becomes a substitute for God or Jesus since "his own stability depended on the little boy's presence." (TVBA, p.182). Grotesquely, but typical for the author, the idiot becomes "the physical offer of grace, the threat of personal revelation". 66

Tarwater tries to deny this offer of mercy and unsuccessfully strives to avoid performing the "empty rite" (TVBA, p.146) of baptism. Impulsively, Tarwater drowns the child "vomit[ting] out" 67 the baptism formula. Here the issue of free will is not solved in common agreement, but is again rather a question of divine grace. John May, a critic, sees Tarwater's intuition just as every "first impulse [as] a free gift from God, and not [as] a question of human freedom at all."68 In the act of baptizing and simultaneously drowning Bishop, Tarwater might try to destroy his split attitude or attraction to Mason and Rayber. 69 Like John, Tarwater is torn between God ' s way - connected with the old prophet - and the world's way - connected with the schoolteacher. Tarwater is trapped in confusion, pride and self­glorification. With the murder he intends to prove his liberation from Mason who resembles the child and his superiority and victory over Rayber because he is able to act out what Rayber has never been able to. By proving to be capable of "doing" and refraining whatever he likes, the youth utters the words of baptism when killing Bishop. He is successful in "acting" but misses his defiant purpose of ignoring his call to baptizing the child. With this baptism- murder or murder-baptism, Tarwater expresses his refusal of any ties to God or to men. He wants to demonstrate his liberation from Mason and Rayber, and to flee from becoming a prophet and an atheist. Similar to David Kern, he thinks he possesses godlike authority over another life and takes the liberty of killing Bishop without any sense of regret and guilt. Death and murder are supposed to get lost in a "general meaninglessness, a confusion so cosmic that there is no escape from it in thought, no way to order it logically," 70 The adolescent has been locked up in isolation and just like David releases his antagonism and rage in the form of a violent act of killing. Violence therefore breaks out of inner chaos and "imposes a kind of order on it. In a sense 0'Connor’s heroes murder to create order . .., and equilibrium." 71 Paradoxically, with a violent act of destruction, Tarwater involuntarily causes justice. With the performance of his divine mission of baptism the child is saved and shows that God puts value upon each person - even upon an idiot. The child's death serves to illuminate Tarwater and to lead him in the process towards his rebirth. The ruin or death of his self-righteousness and independence is therefore closely connected with the death of Bishop. Comparable to David the murder amounts to "symbolic suicide" 72 which leads him to his spiritual conversion. The Christian idea of life through death, of a new creation through chaos and despair is experienced by the adolescent. He goes through darkness and symbolic death in order to bring light and life as a prophet into the darkness of the city, the world, the unsaved.


Digging Mason's grave at the beginning of the novel, Tarwater hears a strange inner voice that speaks contemptuously of the dead prophet and brainwashes him into false belief. This evil voice uses Mason's weaknesses to persuade Tarwater of the vainness of his mission. The voice injects him with worldly thoughts and encourages him to drink alcohol in order to prevent him from executing his task. The "loud stranger's disagreeable voice" (TVBA, p.13) suggests that Tarwater's mission restricts his freedom which is "to do anything I want to do". (TVBA, p.25). The stranger disseminates the same body of thought as Updike's Rabbit, believing that freedom and finding oneself is "doing 73 as one feels like doing". Tarwater as well as Rabbit have to learn that to know yourself is not synonymous with to "be yourself" 74 and ruthlessly do as you please.

In the course of the novel the malicious voice within his heart appears no longer detached from him but has revealed itself as his "unconscious desires"75 ; as the evil inside of him. However, it is still to be identified as a separate personalized stranger - as the devil himself - since Tarwater is obviously net talking with himself in the form of interior monologues but establishes dialogues with this voice. The devil, identified in the Bible as the adversary, the liar, the enemy, the tempter, uses his greatest trick by denying his existence. That he dismisses the necessity of redemption is another sign of the devil's treachery or trap. O'Connor herself wants to make sure "that the devil gets identified as the devil and not simply taken for this or that psychological tendency. " 76

The devil leads the boy to doubt his mission of baptism and encourages him to act out the killing of the retarded child. It is striking that the devil's voice is smothered when a sudden ray of light shines upon Bishop's head signifying God's presence and presenting the first divine sign which Tarwater is waiting to receive. The devil is also temporarily defeated when Tarwater utters the words of baptism. "wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6, 11). Mason has warned his great-nephew by prophesizing that he is "the kind of boy that the devil is always going to be offering to assist, to give you a smoke or a drink or a ride, and to ask you your bidnis". (TVBA, p.15). This prophesy is fulfilled since Tarwater listens to and obeys the stranger who meanwhile has become his "friend". (TVBA, p.161). The stranger's voice that intends to deflect Tarwater from his vocation and wants to destroy him is personified by the stranger who has raped him. This homosexual seduces Tarwater into drinking alcohol a second time and into taking drugs and finally violates and humiliates him. This violent experience serves as an effective means of fetching the adolescent down from his complacency. Tarwater*s leaving the homosexual stranger behind is like his rejection of the devil and his finding his identity as a prophet. The devil's last, hypocritical and flattering words cause the boy to shiver and make him recognize them as the enemy’s temptation. He receives the divine sign he has unadmittedly always been waiting for. God's power causes the stranger's voice to fade away. Not only is Tarwater now sure of his prophetic mission and his rebirth, but he also knows that his former "friend" is actually his defeated adversary. As is typical for O'Connor, she often uses grotesque elements of evil as "occasion[s] of theophany. " 77

Ironically, the stranger who has tried to take away Tarwater's soul has taken his clothes and the corkscrew- opener he got from his uncle Rayber. The corkscrew-opener is the tool to "open anything" (TVBA, p.229) the world provides. His clothes, especially his hat are also symbols of his old identity. Like John Grimes, Francis Marion is stripped naked before the eyes of God; not only robbed of his possessions but also of his pride and dignity. With the purifying fire, the devil is extinguished and God's grace and glory reveal to Tarwater who he really is and what he is living for. O'Connor confirms this when she states, "I suppose the devil teaches most of the lessons that lead to self-knowledge." 78


Tarwater's hunger for bread is a recurrent image throughout the whole novel. The connotation with Jesus, the 'sacrament of Holy Communion and everlasting life is undoubtedly clear; "Jesus said to them,lI am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst...[I]f any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever" (John 6, 35 and 51). To receive the living and life­giving bread would require a denial of the flesh, a renouncement of the world. Not yet ready to sacrifice his haughty detached self that Tarwater confuses with independence, he keeps searching for something to still his hunger. Trying to deny and deaden this hunger like John and David, he knows and experiences that nothing and nobody except Jesus can satisfy his hunger which is actually not physical but spiritual. His hunger and desire that "was the same as the old man' s ... was so great that he could have eaten all the loaves and fishes after they were multiplied." (TVBA, p.241). Here the author makes a reference to the Biblical miracle of the loaves and fishes where Jesus feeds a multitude of people with just five pieces of bread and two fish. "And they all ate and were satisfied." (Matthew 14, 20).

Paradoxically, precisely what Tarwater has tried to avoid, is actually overwhelming and consuming him. The adolescent's desire for and receiving of Jesus symbolizes his rebirth and his new life as a convert. Francis Marion Tarwater - like David and John - experiences another Biblical promise of Christ: "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven ..., and gives life to the world... I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger..." (John 6, 32 and 35).


Finally, Tarwater chooses the right way and gives up his pride by giving himself to Christ and accepting his mission. The author, as a devout Catholic, uses the child evangelist Lucette as her mouth-piece to make it clear that "unless ye be born again ye shall not have everlasting life." (TVBA, p.109). The purging effect of relinquishing his old sinful self in repentance "miraculously projects [Tarwater] into a new existence". 79 God's righteousness and mercy penetrates to the essence of Tarwater's being and gives his life and mission a purpose. He becomes more than a mere "replica of the prophet". 80

Liberated from his spiritual crisis and selfishness, he is ready to do God's will like the great prophets of the Old Testament to pass on the received salvation and grace.


4.1. PLOT:

This autobiographical novel describes a week in the life of the sensitive adolescent John Grimes focusing on the relationship with his step-father Gabriel Grimes, an eloquent, proud preacher of a black church in Harlem called "Temple of the Fire Baptized". The lively church service of the "saints" and John's progress of maturation told from his perspective build the framework for the story. A complicated and cleverly thought-out system of flashbacks and change of scenery allow the reader insight into the past affairs of the saints.

The construction of the novel can be compared with a "triptych" 81 where at the beginning the Sunday service and at the end John's conversion experience form the wing panels. The central panel is symbolized by "The Prayers of the Saints", depicting the lives of Florence, Gabriel's sister and John's step-aunt; of Gabriel, his first wife Deborah, a "sexless" saint, and his second wife Elisabeth, John's real mother. 82

4.1.2. TITLE:

Go tell it on the mountain,

over the hills and everywhere,
go tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born.

When I was a sinner,

I prayed both night and day,,
I asked my Lord to help me,
and He showed me the way.

Go tell it on the mountain...

When I was a seeker,

I sought both night and day,

I asked my Lord to help me,
and He taught me to pray.

Go tell it on the mountain...

He made me a watchman
upon the city wall,
and if I am a Christian,

I am the least of all.

Go tell it on the mountain...

"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is also the title of a Negro spiritual, the Christian folk music of the blacks. Rhythmical gospel songs - there are at least twenty mentioned in the book - have a determining influence on the religious slant and atmosphere of the novel and let the author appear like a "blues or gospel singer."83 The worship songs accompanied by instruments and dances during a service have a ritual function and serve as initiation and transition, inseparable Donald B. Gibson, ed.. Five Black Writers; Essays on Uright, Ellison. Baldwin, Hughes, and La aol Jones (N*v York: New York University PreB». 1970). p.125. from the idea of rebirth and finding one's roots.

The mountain is not only an image for the saints to pass on the Word of God, but symbolizes also a burden of guilt, sin, a problem or inner chaos the characters have to "climb" and overcome in order to reach a state of liberation and salvation.84


John Grimes's story of finding his identity closely resembles Baldwin's own religious crisis and conversion experience as the fourteen-year-old step-son of a preacher.85 The author's Christian ministry as an adolescent preacher, his relationship with his bitter and angry father and his profound knowledge of the Bible are mirrored in this novel as well as in a play "The Amen Corner" ( 19 5 3 ).86 Christianity and its precept to love your neighbour as much as yourself, its intention to obliterate and heal one's pains through love as well as the tension between misunderstood love and misused power are present throughout his works.

As an artist, he intends to create order "out of the disorder which is life"87 and to transmit truth, "as much of the truth as one can bear, and then a little more."88 In his novels of hope Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Fire Next Time, Baldwin aims to convey his Christian faith as "a value system that can transfigure the self"89 in order to help the "truth-seeker" to find "his freedom and fulfilment."90


For some blacks religion or the church represent a refuge, protection and security. Baldwin's characters who end up in crime and lose their security or even their lives are those who reject Christian belief and have chosen the latter one of the only two possibilities the author leaves open: church or jail. Baldwin who explores human nature and authentically depicts man in his complexity, in his "web of ambiguity, paradox, this hunger, danger, darkness"91 shows deep psychological and spiritual insight.

The characters fall in order to rise, "rise in order to fall, sin in order to gain salvation, ...see when they are blind, hate in order to love, die in order to live..."92 The dualism and struggle of good and evil, of light and darkness impose religious feelings of guilt on the believers who are totally devoted to their Christian faith. Their archaic and emotional worship of God which is "a fierce and constant compulsion that never abandons them a second"93 gives a true account of what religion meant and probably still means to the Negroes and their world. Nevertheless, they cannot be considered as mere stereotypes suffering recurrent fates within a community of blacks since they are equipped with individual and universal characteristics.


Baldwin as an expatriate and - like his John Grimes - as a black and an adopted child has to fight against detachment and alienation which is supposed to be not only personal but also "the American experience"94 since most Americans base their lives on illusions.

In this novel the author expresses his conviction that a person can be set free from his illusions and estrangement by persistently pursuing the Truth.95 Although his later work is overshadowed by despair and bitterness bereft of his former faith and hope, Baldwin still searches for "racional, national, and spiritual identity."96


John's step-father is the second protagonist of Go Tell It on the Mountain and the most influential person in John's initiation towards conversion and maturity.

Like our adolescents Tarwater and later John who have to face the decision for or against God, Gabriel comes to the conclusion as a twenty-one year-old young man that he has to choose between the "Broad-way" of damnation and the narrow way of salvation. His mother, a devout and godly woman has lived to see the day her son is brought "before the throne of grace." 97 When she lies on her dying bed, Gabriel knows he has to renounce the "flesh" and leave behind his egoistic, sinful way in order to please his mother and not be overwhelmed and driven by his lust any more. He realizes his lewdness and hates it. When leaning on a tree, repenting and crying for God's mercy, "he felt [like Tarwater] that he stood beneath the naked eye of Heaven" (GTM, p.96) stripped of all pride and human help. When the battle between "death and everlasting life" (GTM, p.97) is fought out similarly to David's, Gabriel's cry of despair or prayer "Save me! Save me!" (GTM, p.97) is heard and answered. He is raised from the depths of darkness unto the "solid rock" (GTM,p.97) of salvation. Gabriel's conversion experience of spiritual rebirth leads him to adulthood and into service as a preacher. "[H]ere was a new beginning, a blood-washed day! And this was the beginning of his life as a man." (GTM, p.97).

Gabriel becomes a successful eloquent preacher who, comparable to the old prophet Mason, zealously passes on the gospel. Although serving God and longing to live a holy life, he fails and falls. He suffers from and detests his fleshly lust in his puritan attitude but is actually controlled by it. Opposing forces are still fighting within him as indicated in his name "angel of filth."98 The Gabriel of the Bible is God's messenger who brings the good news that Zacharias' wife Elisabeth shall bear a son, John the Baptist, who shall bring great gladness. Baldwin's Gabriel, however, is not pleased about John's illegitimate existence. John is Jaaoa Baldwin. Go Toll It on the Mountain (New York: Dell Publishing Co. Inc.. 1953), p.74. The following notes which refer to the novel Go Tall It on the Mountain are in parentheses (GTM, p...). not his natural son but the product of his wife Elisabeth and her former husband, and cannot continue the "royal" line of his descendants. Therefore he hates John who reminds him constantly of his own sin of infidelity. Gabriel who strives - like Mason - to convert sinners, especially the beautiful, godless Esther, is actually "converted" by her, "not on the threshing floor, but the kitchen floor, back to what he really is." 99 His first natural son Royal, who was born out of this temptation during his first marriage, is a godless adolescent who is killed in a fight. The father's pain over the death of his first son and the rejected love for his second son Royal, John's step-brother, who rebels against Gabriel's religiosity, "give to this grim prophet feet of common clay." 100 Gabriel is more concerned with restoring his former fame as a popular preacher than loving and caring about his family. He is guilty of self-righteousness and spiritual pride, not realizing that pride is the original sin of mankind and "goes before destruction" (Proverbs 16,18) as his first wife Deborah quotes from the Bible. His pride, which might just be compensation for his hidden inferiority complex, and his unsuccessful struggles to master his impulses make him as well as his family suffer. With his misunderstood interpretation and distribution of God's word that gives him a sense of power and might be "a sublimation of hatred" 101 he tries to beat sin out of his sons, especially his step-son John.

4.3.3. GABRIEL - JOHN - GOD:

With his physical brutality Gabriel harvests the hatred and contempt of his sons. The sensitive John has to harden his heart and to respond with suppressed counter-hatred in order to protect his wounded soul and body. John accuses his father of being responsible for the emotional mess and the material poverty the family is in, just as Baldwin is "inclined to be contemptuous of my father for the conditions of his life, for the conditions of our lives." 102 John revolts against the high moral and religious demands of his father who himself cannot meet his own expectations. He uncovers the discrepancy between his father's words and his actions and rebels against Gabriel's religion that serves as a means to suppress and control him instead of leading him towards maturity and conversion. As a messenger of the Good News Gabriel should lead people to God but actually causes them to turn away from his vengeful God. With his unloving and deterrent testimony, Gabriel is the greatest obstacle in John's way towards rebirth and manhood. Since John transfers the image of his violent-tempered father to his concept of God, the Heavenly Father, he is determined never to bow before his father nor before God.

John searches for a father he can admire and who gives him the kindness, attention and love he so desperately needs. His efforts to please his father, "to make his father love him" (GTM, p.30) are in vain, are ignored or misunderstood. John is left in the dark about his background and the reason why his father rejects him and does not know that Gabriel is not his natural father. He feels like a fatherless child and realizes in the end that only his Heavenly Father can meet his deepest needs. His thirst for acceptance and tenderness is like David's longing for the gentle touch of Jesus. "Then he would no longer be the son of his father, but the son of his Heavenly Father, the King. Then he need no longer fear his father, for he could take ...their quarrel ... to the Father who loved him, who had come down in the flesh to die for him." (GTM, p.145). John experiences the fatherheart of God receiving, as does David, everlasting life and His steadfast love and forgiveness that restores him. Looking "unto Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith" (GTM, p.205) he is promised not to perish since "his drifting soul was anchored in the love of God." (GTM, p.204). The assurance of eternal life in glory gives him, just like David, hope and confidence.

John's last try to win his father's appreciation by smiling at him after his conversion is not reciprocated. Although no reconciliation takes place between John and Gabriel, John reaches equality with his father in the eyes of his Father in Heaven. Once trying to escape from his violent father by escaping the church, John finds his new Father by becoming a member of the church like the other saints. He has overcome Gabriel's authority and tyranny, gaining deliverance from his hatred and his ties to him and gaining a position equal to his father. "Never again will he be a helpless victim." 103 The depiction of the father-son relationship is not only "a history of Baldwin's personal trauma"104 but might be expanded to mankind's quest for a loving and caring father. Dilhard. Soundsr few, p.127.


John does not find his natural father but his Heavenly Father and not his natural brother but a "brother in the Lord" (GTM, p.220). Elisha, an adolescent convert, is like a big brother and a father-substitute he can admire. Elisha represents a "holy" (GTM, p.13) idol to John and, in contrast to Gabriel, contributes considerably to John's searching and finding of God. Unlike Gabriel, who is good at eloquently preaching holy words of truth but hardly ever lives according to them, Elisha testifies about his Christian faith being a living proof of God's truth. The Biblical Elisha of the Old Testament is a prophet who presents the Redeemer to the people, which is also the vocation of Tarwater and every dedicated Christian. In an evangelistic talk Elisha stirs John to think about the necessity of deciding between Hell or the devil and Heaven or Jesus. "You still got Adam's mind, boy ...But when the Lord saves you He burns out that old Adam, [like He did with Tarwater], He gives you a new mind and a new heart, and then you don't find no pleasure in the world, you get all your joy in walking and talking with Jesus every day." (GTM, p.54). Elisha's description and sharing of a real conversion is simultaneously a prophesy just as Mason predicted Tarwater's rebirth and £ mission. Furthermore, the "re-orientation of self is often decisively influenced by a fellow human being and often occurs in the light of a shared experience."105

Unlike Gabriel, who wants to beat sin out of his step-son by hammering Biblical phrases and his belt upon him, Elisha as God's tool is truly guiding John in his initiation towards conversion. Also during John's spiritual rebirth on the •threshing-floor, Elisha assists his "brother" in his anguish, and - like a guardian angel or even as a Christ-figure - leads him through his profound crisis. Witnessing and confirming John's new life as a child of God, he rejoices, "He come through...didn't he, Deacon Grimes? The Lord done laid him out, and turned him around and wrote his new name down in glory. Bless our God!" (GTM, p.220-21). Gabriel does not share Elisha’s and the other saints' enthusiasm about John's salvation and obviously refuses to accept his step­son as an equal. He might even be bitter and disappointed that not his two Royals, his real sons but his step-son now belongs to the elect, Royal line.


Gabriel's sister Florence shows similarities to John concerning her pride, hardheartedness and malice against her brother. Like John, her hate against Gabriel embitters her and prevents her from forgiving and bowing before God whom she equates with her brother. Contemporarily, she has undergone a conversion as a young woman, however, without any noticeable effects, and more out of anguish than out of true repentence. In her heart she still fears and rejects the wrathful Gabriel with his wrathful God.

Her hatred even makes her sick and in her dark life without God she is - like David and John - tortured by demonic visitations. Death, "with the eyes of a serpent" (GTM, p.67), the symbol of the devil, tries to destroy her. The threat of this scary death-vision makes her call on the name of Jesus for help and "death departed..." (GTM, p.67). Fear of death looms over Florence's later life again and finally brings her back to the altar of God.



John's search for love and his roots is "theological"106 and the author seems to equate identity with "purity".107 John must learn to confront the evil of society and human nature and to overcome the hindrances society sets in order to achieve his true identity.

Like David's condition is described in the first sentence and Tarwater's way is shaped by the prophesies of Mason, also John's identity is predetermined from the beginning. Just as Tarwater is to become a prophet like his great-uncle, "everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father." (GTM, p.ll). Both Tarwater and John rebel against this imposed destiny, and John is determined never to "be like his father, ... He would have another life." (GTM, p.19). He is a lonely wanderer like Tarwater and David, rejecting violent or false theology as well as a meaningless society. John as a "weary traveler" (GTM, p.19) is in an observing, frustrating ("Sisyphus-like") isolated position. He pities himself for that and the pain he has to endure. Feeling alone and misunderstood, he suppresses his emotions, his fear, his hatred, his hurt and his jealousy that his father prefers his brother Roy who has only contempt for him and curses him. John curses his father as well and desires to "bring his father low" (GTM, p.43), but never dares to speak it out. His mother often tries to compensate for Gabriel's injustice and violence against John. She is the only one who does not forget John's birthday which is such a significant turning point in his adolescent life.

He considers his intellect, like Rayber, as a means of self­redemption, and just as Tarwater uses his intelligence against his uncle, John uses it as a "weapon" (GTM, p.20) of revenge in his rebellion against his father. It also serves as a protection of his wounded heart from the mental and physical strokes his father inflicts upon him. His brightness that "was his identity" (GTM, p.20) and his pride detach him, like David, from other adolescents who are carelessly playing outside and who frighten as well as fascinate him. On the one hand John despises them, on the other hand he suffers that he is without friends and cannot be one of them. His identity as well as his physical appearance is remarked upon by others; his fellow beings call him "frog-eyes" and his father even sees his face as the "face of Satan". (GTM, p.27). The fact that he is not a very attractive boy, which his father associates with damnation, and that he is black, which an inner malicious voice suggests is a curse upon him, underline his alienated existence. John who explores his heart to find out why he is rejected by his father burdens himself with a deep sense of guilt when discovering his "false pride", his "evil imagination", the "power" (GTM, p.21) of his intelligence, his ugliness, his "wickedness" (GTM, p.20) and his wish to escape from a life of "humiliation" (GTM, p.34) and filth.

4.4.2. CITY;

Just like our other two adolescents, John seeks distraction in the worldly pleasures of city life. As Mason wants to protect Tarwater from the city, also John's parents warn him of New York, the symbol of "perdition" (GTM, p.33) and destruction that leads to "death". (GTM, p.34). Baldwin makes it a place where adolescents are "searching desperately for limits which would tell them who they [are]".108 Standing on the mountain commanding a view over New York he is provided with a sense of power. He temporarily chooses the extended glitter of superficialities which he confuses with freedom. Watching a movie, John identifies himself with its rebellious heroine who "thumbs her nose at the world." (GTM, p.39). With this act of defiance and contempt, he shows his resistance to religion, race and also society.

However, like Tarwater and David, he cannot free himself from God, and even in the movie he is upset by an apocalyptic vision of Christ's second coming and "the wages of sin".(GTM, p.40). Like Tarwater, he unsuccessfully tries to deny his hidden hunger for "the bread of life" (GTM, p.15) and vainly wants to find a compromise to avoid the decision between the narrow "way that led to life everlasting and the [Broad]way that ended in the pit." (GTM, p.49).


The last part of the novel, the destination of John's initiation journey is dedicated to his spiritual agony and purification. His conversion experience happens on the church's threshing-floor, normally the place where the wheat is separated from the chaff by being threshed. John is the corn and sin is now truly "beaten out" of him.


When John is lying on the threshing-floor, his soul is almost devoured by darkness when wrestling with demonic forces. John's fears and anguish resemble those of the author who is "afraid of the evil within me and afraid of the evil without." (The Fire Next Time).

John's recognition of sin merges into fear of damnation, and like David he is plagued by death-visions beyond any human help. "Fear was upon him, a more deadly fear than he had ever known, ... as he moaned, ...and crawled through darkness, finding no hand, no voice, finding no door." (GTM, p.20l). His apocalyptic, helpless position in "the heart of darkness" (GTM, p.195) and his tremendous terrible inner chaos is masterfully expressed by alliterative, repetetive almost poetic, Biblical and highly emotional language, "-ah, something had happened to John!" (GTM, p.194). John's stream of consciousness is pervaded by Biblical imagery, signs of hope and reflections on Elisha. He is disturbed and tormented by thoughts of nothingness, everlasting hell and his powerful father. John let his thoughts roam over his parents, imagining his mother as a beautiful young girl and observing his father's "hideous nakedness [that] was secret, like sin, and slimy, like the serpent, and heavy, like the rod." (GTM, p.197). The sexual connotation is clear and John's Oedipus- complex is revealed when jealously wishing to castrate his father and to eliminate his sexual and religious power. His sin of "voyeurism" 109 and masturbation overwhelms him with guilt feelings. Also homo-erotic desires for Elisha's tenderness run through his confused inner struggles. Reading Baldwin's The Outing, in which similar settings and characters occur, several critics degrade John's conversion experience to an "initiation into homosexuality."110 In John's search for love and "the glory of the light” (GTM, p,200) he has to go through unimaginable despair and through the "darkness of his sin [that actually] was in the hardheartedness with which he resisted God's power.” (GTM, p.21). When he is lying on the threshing-floor surrounded by hellish darkness, his hard heart of bitter resentment is broken or "cracked ... open" (GTM, p.193) and he knows "there was a light somewhere, and life and joy,..." (GTM, p.203). Again the image of light brings forth hope. Unless he is willing to give up his thoughts of hatred and revenge and to forgive his father, his Heavenly Father cannot forgive him either, and the healing stream of God is blocked by unforgiveness and pride. Like his father did as a young man also John begs God for mercy receiving a divine vision of a holy communion service in the upper room "made golden by the light of the sun". (GTM, p.203). The positive atmosphere of the vision changes, showing the naked sinners including himself trying to wash off the "unholy blood" (GTM, p.203) and mud from their feet, which can be interpreted as an attempt of self-redemption, of trying to wash one's sins away by oneself. "Then John saw the Lord -... and the darkness ... was filled with a light he could not bear. Then, in a moment, he was set free". (GTM, p.2Q4). John experiences, like his father in the process of becoming a man of God, that his soul "is anchored ... in the rock that endured forever. The light and the darkness ...were married now, forever". (GTM, p.204). This does not mean that light and darkness, or righteousness and iniquity, or God and the devil have anything in common. (2.Corinthian 6, 14). The following lines full of Biblical references indicate that darkness is overcome by light, that "the serpent" (GTM, p.205) is dethroned by the Lord and the perpetual divine streams of love and living water are poured on the barrenness of John's soul. John realizes and experiences what his friend Elisha tells him: "Ain't nothing but the love of God can make the darkness light." (GTM, p.218).


Like Tarwater, also John is influenced by a "malicious, ironic voice" (GTM, p.194) that wants to prevent him from self-surrender and "to leave this temple and go out into the world" (GTM, p.193) revealing his suppressed wish to escape religion and bite off the tempting apple of worldly pleasures. There is again disagreement among the critics with what or with whom the voice is to be identified.

It might be John's guilty and bad conscience tormenting him because it has convicted him of sin. It could also be an expression of his religious doubts and his hidden contempt for possibly becoming like his father. "The voice, then, is the voice of unbelief within John, which Baldwin describes as predominant in his state of mind before his conversion." 111 Biting critics think that the ironic voice is John's intelligence or his "common sense, fighting a losing battle against his weakness for hysterical religion." 112 This would mean that John has a split personality or is of two minds and his struggle on the threshing-floor is just a deceptive impression or an imaginary perception of his conversion. This corresponds neither with John's character nor with the genuineness and sincerity of the emotional, mental and spiritual battle he goes through before reaching deliverance. Other critics are convinced that the malicious voice within John is Gabriel's since he wants his step-son to get up off the floor. This assumption, however, is not sound looking at a passage where the separation between his father's and the ironic voice is clearly defined. "’Set thine house in order,' said his father, ’for thou shalt die and not live.’ And then the ironic voice spoke again saying: 'Get up, John...Don't let him keep you there. You got everything your daddy got.’" (GTM, p.196). This expresses more John's internal competition with Gabriel. Although he is terrified by recalling the strict voice of his violent father, the latter is not a "conscious hypocrite" 113 who would demand of anybody to reject repentance and salvation or who would disturb the process of it. Though perhaps jealous that not his own sons but his step-son is in the purification process of becoming the "King's" child it remains his wish to see people convert. From the Christian perspective the malicious voice can be explained as John's enemy as well as God's enemy, the devil. Like in our discussion of O'Connor's novel, the "stranger" with his "many faces" (GTM, p.218) dirties the adolescent's thoughts and makes him believe that he is a cursed, ugly and lewd "nigger". (GTM, p.197). Finally, John decides not to obey the voice of damnation that wants to prevent him from being delivered and saved and reaching the light he so desperately seeks. "But now he knew, for irony had left him, that he was searching something, hidden in the darkness, that must be found. He would die if it was not found." (GTM, p.199).

There is a second voice speaking into his soul that might be compared with fate or emotions that tell him to succumb to his father and the church. In the end he kills the ironic voice of reason that tells him to oppose, and he gives in to his emotions. This rather fatalistic explanation, however, takes no heed of John's intelligence and his will to find the light of hope and the love of God. Of course, emotions are involved in John's salvation process since, in his humble position on the floor, he now comes in contact with his suppressed pain and anger. The other voice however, represents more than a feeling. It is "the humble voice of faith, of God's angel, of mature self-acceptance,"114 of the saints, telling him "Jesus saves. Call on Him." (GTM, p.202). As a counterpart to the devil's voice it might even be identified as God's voice encouraging John to persevere, to "go through". (GTM, p.202). Elisha's voice in accordance with Jesus' loving voice offers John the helping hand he needs to be raised out of his fallen state. Like David, John experiences that "[o]nly the love of God could establish order in this chaos; to Him the soul must turn to be delivered." (GTM, p.175). The Lord as the light exposing sin represents the restoring force of life and love. He is victorious over the devil who disguises sin and represents the destructive force of death and damnation.


The death of John's old self and his experience of a new birth can be compared with a seed that has to be buried into the earth, die there and burst open in order to grow and bear fruit when extending towards the light. " [S]omething died in John, and something came alive...’I'm saved, ’he said, 'and I know I'm saved.’" (GTM, p.207). He is sure of his conversion, and it is significant that his rebirth happens on his fourteenth birthday. The saints confirm John's new life and new beginning; "’The Lord done saved that boy's soul on his birthday!' 'Well, he got two birthdays now'." (GTM, p.21Q). Like a newborn baby is delivered out of the dark narrow womb into a new state of life and light, John is being "allured .., out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping." (Job 36, 16). The process of conversion might be painful and "ecstatically terrifying" 115, but the outcome is cleansing, releasing and healing. The author's concept of God described in Nobody Knows My Name shows similarity to John's salvation experience. "To be with God is really involved with some enormous, overwhelming desire, and joy, and power which you cannot control ...I conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others." 116 Finding his new identity as a child of God and a member of the church like the saints, John is set free from his father's control. Arguments that John "is trapped in his childhood [and] can't be a Negro or any man" 117 and will therefore always remain a victim of his father are not sound. Especially when considering the ending of the novel (GTM, p.221) where John expresses the acceptance of his Christian ministry ("I'm ready"), his family ("I'm coming") and his identity ("I'm on my way"). The generalization that identity is "nowhere actually achieved" 118 in Baldwin's fiction does not apply to Go Tell It on the Mountain. Despite psychological evaluations, the author makes it clear that John's experience on the threshing floor is not a mere "fit of hysteria"119 which "coincides with the first tentative stirrings of sexuality". 120 His conversion is essentially religious or transcendental and not only a psychological conflict. It is also a spiritual battle between God and the devil, angels and demons, spirit and flesh. The reality of John's redemption in the sense of "Christian metanoia”121, meaning the state of rebirth and renewal, confirmed by several repetitions of "new", is not a single experience accessible only to our adolescent. It is an eternal gift of grace and forgiveness that "has been made available to all men through Christ's death on the Cross."122 Only when recognizing one's evil and sinful nature, can we "know and feel the importance of salvation, and be enabled to appreciate the value of what God is pleased to do for us."123 John knows from his religious upbringing that only a consciously voluntary humility before his Saviour, only self­surrender and repentance can keep him from everlasting damnation. Realizing like O'Connor's Rufus, "Nobody can save me but Jesus" ("The Lame Shall Enter First") and turning from his former ways, John's "old man" is altered and transformed by divine help. "Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (2. Corinthians 5, 17). John's initiation towards spiritual manhood and his conversion from a "sinner" to a "saint" has converted his cry of despair to a song of triumph, illustrated by the following table (- which is surely not complete);

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


John, like Tarwater and David, gains assurance of his salvation, eternal life and call by changing from trying to serve the Lord (GTM, p.32) to "going to serve the Lord." (GTM, p.208). Baldwin expresses John's liberation by again quoting from the Bible (John 8, 36), "He was free - whom the Son sets free is free indeed - he had only to stand fast in his liberty." (GTM, p.216). He is also set free from the "curse" of being a negro which is, to put it into C.Joseph R. Washington's words, "the blessed symbol of God's paradoxical instrument as the means of His grace for all men."124 He is saved on the seventh day, the Biblical number of completion, and it is on a bright Sunday morning in spring indicating growth, maturation and hope. The old Broadways of false glitter and filth of New York City are replaced by the narrow ways of glory and purity of New Jerusalem, the Christian image of Heaven. The description of the avenue that John, who is accompanied by the other saints, walks on after his conversion, actually expresses John's condition: "Now the storm was over. And the avenue...that has endured a storm, lay changed under Heaven, exhausted and clean, and new." (GTM, p. 215). The wailing siren of an ambulance and the remaining hardness of his father mars John's joy at his salvation, warning him that his "ecstatic conversion ...[is] still to be tested by the long complex journey of life."125 Although his salvation has permanent value, he cannot avoid the "enemy" who will try to invade his soul again and mountains of temptation, doubt, problems might impede his future way. "For the rebirth of the soul was perpetual; only rebirth every hour could stay the hands of Satan." (GTM, p.113). However, John can hold on to the Biblical comfort of the Psalmist David: "The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27, 1).

If John is to be identified with the author himself, then he will become bitter and gradually lose his faith considering it as a "gimmick". 126 However, even if the authors Baldwin and Updike become ironic and trapped in doubts, the conversions of their young heroes John and David, as well as of O'Connor's Tarwater, remain genuine, "no matter how much their religious enthusiasm declines" 127 or the emotions waver. All three are successfully initiated into a state of physical, mental and spiritual maturation, and their religious conversions let them find their identities and know who they really are. " ’[T]hat's the way the young folks is, ... You can't never tell them nothing’...'Young men ... is all the same, don't Jesus change their hearts.' " (GTM, p.141).



Baldwin, James, Go Tell it on the Mountain. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1953.

Baldwin, James. Go Tell It on the Mountain. With Commentary, Notes and Exercises by E.N. Obiechina. London: Longman Group Ltd., 1966.

O'Connor, Flannery. The Violent Bear It Away. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1955.

Updike, John. Olinger Stories - A Selection. New York: Vintage Books - Random House Inc., 1964.

Updike, John. Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.

Updike, John. Rabbit, Run. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1964.

The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1962.


Hawkes, John. "Flannery O'Connor's Devil". Sewanee Review. LXX, Summer 1962.

"Realism and the Novel: An Interview with John Updike". Dialogue. IV, 4, 1971.

O'Connor, Fannery. "The Church and the Fiction Writer". America. March 30, 1957.

Sister Gable, Mariella. "Flannery O'Connor: A Tribute". Esprit. University of Scranton, VIII, Winter 1964.


Ahrends, Gunter. Die amerikanlsche Kurzgeschichte: Theorie und Entwicklung. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1980.

Burchard, Rachael C. John Updike: Yea Sayings. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971.

Burghardt, Klaus und Eisenberg, Rolf, ed. Youth - Problems and Challenge. Topical Texts 19. Kursmaterialien fur die Sekundarstufe II. Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1979.

Carter, W. Martin. The True Country: Themes in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor. Huntsville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968.

Cooke, M.G., ed. Modern Black Novelists: A Collection of

Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1971.

Coyle, William, ed. The Young Man in American Literature: The Initiation Theme. New York: The Odyssee Press, 1969.

Desmond, John F. Risen Sons: Flannery O'Connor's Vision of History. Athens & London: The University of Georgia Press, 1987.

Detweiler, Robert and Meeter, Glenn, ed. Faith and Fiction: The Modern Short Story. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B.Erdmans Publishing Company, 19?

Detweiler, Robert. Four Spiritual Crises in Mid-Century

American Fiction. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1964.

Detweiler, Robert. John Updike. New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1972.

Dilhard, R.H.W.; Garrett, George and Moore, John Rees, ed.

The Sounder Few: Essays from the Hollins Critic. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1964.

Driskell, Leon V. & Brittain. The Eternal Crossroads: The

The Art of Flannery 0‘Connor. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1971.

Eggenschwiler, David. The Christian Humanism of Flannery

0~Connor. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1972.

Foley, Martha, ed. The Best American Short Stories 1955;

and the Yearbook of the American Short Story. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1955.

Freese, Peter. Die Initiationsreise: Studien zum jugendlichen Helden im modernen amerlkanischen Roman. Neumunster: Karl Wachholtz Verlag, 1971.

Galloway, David. The Absurd Hero in American Fiction: Updike Styron Bellow Salinger. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970.

Gibson, Donald B., ed. Five Black Writers: Essays on Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Hughes, and Le Roi Jones. New York: New York University Press, 1970.

Goodman, Paul. Growing up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized Society. New York: A Division of Random House, 1956.

Greiner, J. Donald. John Updike's Novels. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984.

Gross, Theodore L. The Heroic Ideal in American Literature. New York: The Free Press, 1971.

Harper, Howard M. Desperate Faith: A Study of Bellow,

Salinger, Mailer, Baldwin and Updike. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967.

Heller, Arno. Qdyssee zum Selbst: Zur Gestaltung jugendllcher Identltatssuche im neueren amerikanlschen Roman. Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Gesellschaft zur Pflege der Geisteswissenschaften, 1973.

Hendln, Josephine. The World of Flannery O'Connor.

Bloomington / London: Indiana University Press, 1970.

James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience:

A Study in Human Nature. New York: The Modern Library, 1902.

Keniston, Kenneth. The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in

American Society. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1960.

Klein, Marcus. After Alienation: American Novels in Mid­Century. New York: A Division of Arno Press Inc., 1964.

Markle, Joyce B. Fighters and Lovers: Theme in the Novels of John Updike. New York: New York University Press, 1973.

MOller, Karin. The Theme of Identity in the Essays of James Baldwin: An Interpretation. GOteburg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1975.

Moore, Harry T., ed. Contemporary American Novelists. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964.

Oates, Joyce Carol. First Person Singular. Writers on Their Craft. Princeton: Ontario Review Press, 1983.

O'Daniel, Therman B., ed. James Baldwin: A Critical

Evaluation. Washington D.C.: Howard University Press, 1977.

Oppel, Horst. Die Suche nach Gott in der amerikantschen Literatur der Gegenwart. Abhandlungen der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse, Jahrgang 1972, Nr.8. Mainz: Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, 1972.

Peden, William. The American Short Story: Front Line in the National Defense of Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1964.

Rosenblatt, Roger. Black Fiction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Ryken, Leland. Culture in Christian Perspective: A Door to Understanding and Enjoying the Arts. Portland: Multnomah Press, 1986.

Sontag, Frederick and Roth, John K. The American Religious Experience: The Roots, Trends, and Future of American Theology. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1972.

Taylor, Larry E. Pastoral and Anti-Pastoral Patterns in John Updike's Fiction. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971.


[1] David Galloway. The Absurd Hero In American Fiction.: Updike Styron Bellow Salinger (Austin: University of Texas Press. 1970), p.5.

[2] see Horst Oppel. Die Suche nach Oott in der amerlkanlschen tlteratur der Qegenwart; [Abhandlungen der geistes- und soaialwissenechaftlichen Klasse, Jahrgang 1972. Nr. S) (Mainz: Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur. 1972), p.67.

[3] William Coyle, The Young Man in American Literature: The Initiation Theme (New York: The Odyssee Press. 1969). p.3Q.

[4] Kenneth Xeniston. The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth In American Society (New York: Dell Publishing Co. Xnc.. 1960), p.167.

[5] Coyle. The Young Man, p.30

[6] see Peter Freese, Ole Inltlatlonsrelae: Studlen zum jugandllahan Helden Xaa moderoen amarikaninchen Roman (NeumUnnter: Karl Wachholtt Verlag. 1971). p.156,

[7] Amo Heller. Odraaee tun Selbat; Zar Oesteltung jugendllclier Identitytasuche 1m neueren anerlkanlachen Rocan (Innsbruck: Innabrucker Oeaellschaft sur Pflege der Oeisteawlssenschaften. 1973). P-25.

[8] Klaus Burghardt and Roll Elsenberg, ed.. Youth - Probleaa and Challenge: Topical Texte 19. Kuramaterlal fUr die Sekundoratufe II (Stuttgart: Emat Klett Verlag. 1979). p.39.

[9] The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York: The World Publishing Company. 1962). The following references to the Sible are taken from this version and put in parentheses.

[10] Frederick Sontag and John K. Roth. The American Religious Experience: The Roots, Trends, and Future of American Theology. (New York: Harper & Row Publishers. 1972). p.247.

[11] Ibid.. p. 256

[12] sea tarry E. Taylor, Pastoral and flntl-Paetoral Patterns in John Updike's Fiction. (Carbondalo and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971), p.59.

[13] Ibid., p.59.

[14] John Updike. Olinger Btorlea - ft Selection (Now York: Vintage Books - Random House Inc.. 1964), p.v.

[15] Joyce Carol Oates. Plrat Person ainguler. Writers on Their Craft (Princeton: Ontario Review Press. 1983), p.4

[16] Ibid.. p. 6

[17] Oppel. Suche nach Gott, p.55

[18] Taylor. Pastoral Patterns, p.51

[19] see Rachael C. Burchard. John Updike: Yea Sayings (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971), p.157.

[20] Donald J. Greiner, John Updike's Hovels (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984), p.174.

[21] John Updike, Rabbit, Run (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.. 1964). p.138.

[22] Oralnar, Updike's Hovela. p.19.

[23] "Realism and the Koval: An Interview with John Updike”, in Dialogue (IV, Nr.4. 1971). pp.85-92.

[24] Updike. Olingar Stories, p.v.

[25] Howard M. Harper, Desperate Faith: A Study of Bellow. Salinger, Mailer. Baldwin and Updike (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967), p.186.

[26] see GUnter Ahrands. Die anerlkanlaehe Kurtgeechlchte: Theorle und Entwlcklung (Stuttgart: Verlag U. Kohlhammar. 1980). p.201.

[27] Ibid., p.202.

[28] Galloway. Absurd Hero, p.30.

[29] John Updike, Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1962), p.116. The following notes which refer to the Bhort story "Pigeon FeatherB" are in parentheses (PF, p...).

[30] Taylor, Pastoral Patterns, p.56.

[31] Updike. Rabbit, Run, p.120.

[32] Burchard. Yea Sayings, p.149.

[33] Ibid., p.149.

[34] Ibid., p.141.

[35] Taylor. Pastoral Patterns, p.56.

[36] Joyce B. Markle. Fighters and Lovers: Theme In the Novels of John Updike (New York: New York University Press. 1973). p.102.

[37] see Ibid., p.103.

[38] Burchard. Yea Sayings, p.150.

[39] Taylor, Pastoral Patterns, p.57.

[40] Ibid., p.57.

[41] Galloway. Absurd Hero, p.30.

[42] see John R. May. Toward a New Earth: Apocalypse In the American Novel (Notre Dame/London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1972), p.141.

[43] Sister Mariella Gable, "Flannery O'Connor: A Tribute", in Esprit (University of Scranton, VIII, Winter 1964). p.26.

[44] May, New Earth, p.142.

[45] Flannery O'Connor. "The Church and the Fiction Writer", in America (March 30. 1957), p.733

[46] Leon V. Driekell S Brittain, The Eternal CroaBroads: The Art of Flannery O'Connor (Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. 1971), p.4.

[47] Ibid., p.4.

[48] Josephine Hendin. The World of Flannery O'Connor (Bloomington/London: Indiana Univermity Preae. 1970), p.30.

[49] R.H.W. Dilhard. Oeorge Carrett and John Reea Moore, ed.. The Sounder Few: Essay from the Holline Critic (Athena: Univeraity of Georgia Preaa, 1964), p.104.

[50] Nendln. World of O'Connor, p.35.

[51] Drlakell, Eternal Crossroads, p.5.

[52] Farmery O Connor, The Violent Bear it Away (New York: Farrar. Straus & Cudahy. 1955), p.73. The following notes which refer to the novel The Violent Bear It flway are put in parentheses (TVBA. p...).

[53] Dilhard. Sounder Few, p.101.

[54] Ibid., p.102.

[55] David Eggenschwller, The Christian Humanism of Planner? O'Connor (Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 1972). p.117.

[56] Ibid., p.116.

[57] Hendln. World of O'Connor, p.32.

[58] Martin W. Carter, The True Country: Themes In the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor (Huntsville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968). p.130.

[59] Eggenochwiler. Christian Humanism, p.30.

[60] Hendln. World of O'Connor, p.31.

[61] Eagganechwiler, Christian Humanism, p.130.

[62] Hendln, World of O’Connor, p.60.

[63] Eggenechwller, Chrlatlan Humanism, p.125.

[64] May, New garth, p.139.

[65] Ibid., p.15.

[66] Ibid., p.132.

[67] Ibid., p.137.

[68] Ibid.. p. 137

[69] see Hendin, World of O^Connor, p.19.

[70] Ibid., p,35.

[71] Ibid., p. 37,

[72] Eggenschwiler. Christian Humanism, p.122.

[73] Updike. Rabbit. Run, p.55.

[74] Harper. Desperate Paith. p.l73.

[75] Eggenschwiler. Christian Humanism, p.125.

[76] John Hawkes, "Flannery O'Connor's Devil" in Sewanee Review (LXX, Summer 1962), p.400).

[77] May, New garth, p.131.

[78] Hawke,Sewanee Review, p.406.

[79] Carter, True Country, p.226.

[80] Hendln, World Of O'Connor, p.61.

[81] M.G. Cooke, ed., Modern Black Novell eta: ft Collection of Critical Essaya (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc.. 1971). p.68.

[82] see Ibid., p.88.

[83] Donald B. Gibson, ed.. Five Black Writers; Essays on Uright, Ellison. Baldwin, Hughes, and La aol Jones (N*v York: New York University PreB». 1970). p.125.

[84] see Soger Rosenblatt, alack Fiction (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974). p.41.

[85] see Cooke. Black Novelists, p.100.

[86] see James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain. With Commentary. Notes and Exorcises by E.N. Obiechina (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1966). pp.250-51.

[87] Therman B. O'Daniol, ed.. Jamas Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation (Washington D.C.; Howard University Press. 1977), p.55.

[88] Ibid., p.19.

[89] Ibid., p.48.

[90] Theodore L. Groan. The Heroic Ideal in American Literature (New York: The Free Press. 1971). pp.149-189.

[91] Marcus Klein, ftfter alienation; American Novels in Mid-Century (New York: A Division of Amo Press Inc.. 1964). p.162.

[92] Rosenblatt. Black Fiction, p.19.

[93] Gibson. Five Black Uritera. p.122

[94] Gross. Heralc Ideal., pp _ 149-1IJ9 ,

[95] see Harper. Desperate Faith, p.140.

[96] O'Daniel. Jamea Baldwin, p.204.

[97] Jaaoa Baldwin. Go Toll It on the Mountain (New York: Dell Publishing Co. Inc.. 1953), p.74. The following notes which refer to the novel Go Tall It on the Mountain are in parentheses (GTM, p...).

[98] Rosenblatt, Black Fiction, p.37

[99] Ibid., p.41.

[100] Gibson. Five Black Writers. p.125.

[101] Gross, Heroic Ideal, pp.149-189.

[102] Rosenblatt. Black Fiction, p.46.

[103] Dilhard. Soundsr few, p.127

[104] Cooke. Black Nogelltta. p.104

[105] Karin MiSller. The Theme ol Identity In the Eaaays of Janice Baldwin: An Interpretation (QBteburg; Acta Unlversitatls Oothoburgenale. 1975). p.46.

[106] Klein. After Alienation, p.164.

[107] Ibid.. p.164.

[108] Klein. After Alienation, p.152.

[109] Cooka. Black Novelists, P.93

[110] Klein. After Alienation, p.183.

[111] O'Daniel. Jamea Baldwin, p.36.

[112] Ibid., p,36.

[113] Ibid., p,36.

[114] Ibid., p.37.

[115] Gibson, Five Black Writers, p.125.

[116] Harper, Desperate Faith. p.141.

[117] Klein, after Alienation, p.164.

[118] Ibid., p.165.

[119] Klein, ftfter alienation. p.lS2.

[120] Gross, Heroic Ideal, pp.149-189

[121] May, Mew Earth, p.23.

[122] Baldwin, GTM (commentary). p.300.

[123] William James, The Varieties of Rellgloua Experience: ft Study In Human Nature (New York: The Modern Library, 1902). p.225.

[124] Sontag, American Rellgioua Experience, p.254.

[125] O'Daniel, Jaaea Baldwin, p.23.

[126] Cooke. Black Wovellata. p.99.

[127] Williams. Religious Experience, p.253.

68 of 68 pages


Adolescent conversions in works by John Updike, Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
File size
17270 KB
gescannte Datei!
adolescent, john, updike, flannery, connor, james, baldwin
Quote paper
Claudia Huemer (Author), 1991, Adolescent conversions in works by John Updike, Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Adolescent conversions in works by John Updike, Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free