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The J-List Literary Fictional Favorite Characters/Gabriel

Updated on August 26, 2015

Front Cover 1st Edition

The Grimes family headed by Gabriel stand in front of their church.
The Grimes family headed by Gabriel stand in front of their church. | Source

J List Summary

The J-List is to literature as the A-list is to Hollywood. The elite selections present my favorite written stories, characters, other details and authors among the literary works that I have had the pleasure to read.

Character Gabriel

Story Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

Author James Baldwin

J- List rank #1

Gabriel's Clan

Gabriel of the Holy Bible is the messenger arch angel among the heavenly host. He helped Daniel, a prophet from the Old Testament. Later, he announced the miraculous births of John the Baptist and Jesus to their mothers. The Gabriel of James Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical classic is also a messenger of God, but he is no angel. He being a man as opposed to an angel is neither all good nor all bad.

He portrays different images to different people:

Elizabeth, wife

Elizabeth believed that he didn’t truly love her. Gabriel’s devotion in her mind was simply his acting out of a sense of duty.

Deborah, past wife

Deborah was already deceased as of the novel’s present tense. She was his wife from an earlier life in another place who endured his smoldering rage throughout their marriage.

Royal, deceased son

Royal was conceived from Gabriel’s post conversion sin against God and wife. He lived wild like his pre conversion father but remained unaware of their ties. He was killed in the streets as a young man. He like Deborah was from Gabriel’s life in the south.

Sarah, daughter

Her brother Roy once mockingly said of Sarah that her first words were probably “thank you Jesus.” Sarah, the elder of two daughters, adored her praying father.

Roy, son

Roy was the favored son, he being the first fruition of Gabriel and Elizabeth’s marriage. He behaved much as Gabriel did in his unrepentant youth and often incurred his father’s wrath as a result.

John, stepson

John, the novel’s main character, subtly returned the resentment to Gabriel that his stepfather displayed towards him.

Florence, sister

Florence was Gabriel’s elder sibling. She was his big sister but certainly not a big supporter of him. Indeed, she once said of him that being a preacher never stopped him from doing his dirt.

The J List- Top Fictional Favorite Characters

1. Gabriel “Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) James Baldwin

2. Miss Clara “The War Room” (2015) Chris Fabry et al

3. Hawkeye “The Last of the Mohicans” (1826) James Fenimore Cooper

4. Julie “Julie of the Wolves” (1972) Jean Craighead George

5. Atticus Finch “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) Harper Lee

6. Teresa Mendoza “Queen of the South” (2002) Arturo Perez-Reverte

7. Patria Mercedes Mirabel “In the Time of the Butterflies” (1994) Julia Alvarez

8. Mathu “A Gathering of Old Men” (1983) Ernest J Gaines

9. Yusuf Ali aka ‘Professor Rat’ “ The Washington Square Ensemble” (1984) Madison Smartt Bell

10. Bagheera “ The Jungle Book” (1894) Rudyard Kipling

Harlem today

A townhouse in the revamped Harlem. The famed section of New York served as the home of the Grimes family.
A townhouse in the revamped Harlem. The famed section of New York served as the home of the Grimes family. | Source

The Real Deal

I read this epic poem disguised as narrative prose and immediately felt a kinship with Gabriel. The bond remains unlike all other connections developed between any other character, factual or fictional, and myself. I clearly identified with Gabriel upon first reading

The poetic “mountain” moved beyond its 30th anniversary before my eyes hovered over its pages. I purchased and read a paperback copy sometime between my alma mater’s New Year’s Day 1986 Rose Bowl thrashing and Harold Washington’s untimely death on Thanksgiving Eve 1987. I was then more into L.L. Cool J, Run DMC and other rappers than gospel. The contemporary cinematic experience that I preferred was 91/2 Weeks, a risqué movie by 1980’s standards. Yet, somehow, I could envision myself becoming Gabriel in the future.

Apparent reasons were present to see such a future. The two of us shared being African-American men dealing with a hostile world. Admittedly, I did not encounter the hardships he did but still understood his frustrations. And, although my mid 1980’s persona displayed a fragile “Christian” walk, I did whole heartedly accept the theology of Gabriel and his fellow saints as correct. However, these issues are common to many. I have read the biopics of Jim Brown, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and Booker T Washington. I agreed at least in part with them but I did not see myself as becoming them.

Yesterday’s future is here today. Yet, I am not Gabriel. However, I know me when I see me. The common denominator linking Gabriel and I is the bitter root with which we struggle. The invisible but ever present reality birthed from within and reinforced by external circumstances is a yoke that hinders us both pre and post conversion.

The persona presented here is fictional but based upon a real person. Gabriel is a good man still burdened with bad traits. To me, he is as real as it gets.


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