Sins: Burning or Blotted Out?

Prompt 8

“So he had fallen:  for the first time since his conversion, for the last time in his life.  Fallen:  he and Esther in the white folks’ kitchen, the light burning, the door half open, grappling and burning beside the sink.  Fallen indeed:  time was no more, and sin, death, Hell, the judgment were blotted out.  …Had Royal, his son, been conceived that night?  Or the next night? Or the next? It had lasted only nine days.”  (pg. 124)

A “burning” lamp

From this passage, my group in Tuesday’s class was specifically interested in the use of the word “burning” multiple times throughout and its potential religious connotations. Not only was the light in the room burning, but Gabriel and Esther were also described to be burning as they commit the sin of adultery. Along with the significance of falling from grace that’s mentioned in this passage, I took the “burning” language to show that Gabriel was figuratively in Hell while committing this sin, or in his own version of Hell. However, after watching the film version of Go Tell It on the Mountain, a new phrase stands out to me in this passage–“blotted out.” In the film’s interpretation of this scene, the lamp does not continue burning while Gabriel and Esther are together; instead, Gabriel blows the lamp out to signal his willingness to have sex with Esther. Looking at the scene from this angle, the idea of sin and judgment being “blotted out” feels like an intentional choice by Gabriel to forget his marital and religious obligations to be with Esther–Gabriel is the one who blots out that light. I think the language in the book’s passage contrasts with the film scene in terms of complicity as well–“falling” can be interpreted as more of an accident or mistake, while the choice to blow out the lamp’s light is one that Gabriel clearly made with intention and desire.

Prompt 14

John in Go Tell It on the Mountain

This is more of a side note, as I am primarily interested in the difference between the light in the “burning” scene, but I did watch most of the film version of Go Tell It on the Mountain. My initial thoughts were that its structure and order differed significantly from that of the book. While the film still utilized flashbacks throughout, the flashbacks tended to go in chronological order–starting with Florence and Gabriel in their childhood home, then progressing on through their stories–instead of jumping from character to character. I found this new ordering a bit easier to follow, but also felt that it made Florence and Gabriel’s familial relationship a much bigger focus of the story than the book did. I would be interested in others’ thoughts about the film and book differences!

Leave a Reply