Lucy Valentine Malcoun, 16
Lucy Valentine Malcoun, grew up in the Montessori School system in Chicago, Illinois, an environment to which Malcoun attributes her core values of equality, peace, and action. Malcoun’s writing is based in fact and focuses on exploring social issues; she intends to use her process to understand how issues like racism and gender inequality affect the psychology and well being of people. She is often surprised at the depth of immersion achieved when writing—it allows her to empathize and understand the experiences of people far from her place in the world: indentured servants in Jamestown, Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush, Malcolm X, James Polk. The most gratifying aspect of writing, for Malcoun, is the act of escapism; a near second is the greater perspective and understanding of the human experience to be gained from writing about subjects from history.
As a feminist, Malcoun strongly feels that women are entitled to the same rights as men—she does not believe that women are superior to men, or vice versa. Malcoun points out that access to reproductive health and education are central issues for the advancement of women across the globe. By bettering the welfare of and opportunities available to women, we could improve the well being of humanity as a whole.
As a youth in the digital age, Malcoun is often troubled by the messages promoted by popular media and corporations. Though she has noticed that there has been a shift in the range of individuals portrayed in the media, there has yet to be noteworthy progress in diversifying representation in most major media outlets. She believes underrepresentation leads to the priming of superficial ideals and immunizes her peers to unrealistic and propagandized societal pressures.
Malcoun hopes to study psychology and medicine in college. She plans to find an intersection of her interests in global health, art, and language through a career that focuses on improving access to healthcare in foreign countries and urban areas.
A Written Analysis on Nature Versus Nurture as Presented in James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain
by Lucy Malcoun
In his semi-autobiographical novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, author James Baldwin explores the universal role that nature versus nurture plays in a person’s psychological evolution. Through character analysis, Baldwin methodically demonstrates the impacts and nuances of a family dynamic. Using numerous literary techniques, such as a plotline that includes flashbacks between characters, Baldwin establishes distinctions between individuals and their relationships. This construct, is not only effective in expressing the foundational aspect of each person’s identity, but allows the reader to critically assess a character’s connections, and their overall importance. As a result, Baldwin successfully reveals the effects one’s upbringing and genetic predispositions, play in their overall character development. One way in which Baldwin reaffirms this notion, is through his portrayal of each character’s historical past. In doing so, Baldwin skillfully portrays the impacts of both societal and generational practices on a family’s structure. This insight, not only allows the reader to contextualize, but compartmentalize the roles that both nature and nurture play in forming a character’s identity.
Baldwin effectively demonstrates this notion through his analysis of Rachel Grimes, formally known as Gabriel, and Florence’s mother, as well as John’s grandmother. Although Rachel’s character does not play a particularly prominent role in the novel, her character’s legacy, is of relevance to the other characters in the novel. Briefly mentioned throughout both Florence and Gabriel’s accounts, Rachel Grimes, was born into slavery. Working on the field of her master’s plantation, Rachel spent the majority of her life oppressed and enslaved. It is evident, from her daughter’s recollections, that Rachel endured extensive trauma during her time as a slave. This is exemplified in a scene where Florence illustrates her mother’s troubling past, “and by and by she married and raised children, all of whom had been taken from her, one by sickness, and two by auction; and one, whom she had not been allowed to call her own, had been raised in the master’s house.” As a result of her persecution and deprivation, Rachel developed an eagerness for, and dependence on her faith. Her devotion is reinforced in her internal monologues, “She did not forget that deliverance was promised and would surely come. She had only to endure and trust in God. She knew that the big house, the house of pride where the white folks lived would come down; it was written in the Word of God.” It can be further deduced that Rachel’s faith was the source of her motivation, and without it, her life would have no purpose. As a result of her success with faith, Rachel felt morally obligated to pass on her love for, and belief in god to both her children and those of future generations.
In addition to being a religious woman, Rachel was a traditional housewife. Following her liberation, Rachel dedicated her life to the wellbeing of her family. Furthermore, having worked for others from a very young age, Rachel quickly grew accustomed to the idea of assisting others for personal pleasure. As expressed in the following excerpt, “She was content to stay in the cabin and do washing for white folks.” From this, it can be assumed that when given the opportunity to pursue freedom, Rachel did not intend on changing her lifestyle. Although it is never explicitly stated nor revealed, one can deduce, that Rachel did so, for she was unaware of any other kind of life. Though Florence claims her mother was content with her life as a homemaker, there is not much evidence in support of this. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that Rachel would have deliberately chose to live such a lifestyle, if she had been born into liberation, or gained independence earlier on in her childhood. Given the time period, it is likely that society indoctrinated her with values of conformity. In addition, Rachel, being a newly liberated, African American woman, had no choice but to succumb to societal roles and expectations, in order to secure her status, subconsciously complying with society’s standards. Even though her opportunities may have been limited given her circumstances, having secured lifelong freedom negated this. As a result, Rachel made it her priority to ensure her children’s security and contentment, by instilling them with similar values of tradition and further demonstrated numerous times throughout both Florence and Gabriel’s Prayers.
In her account, Florence reveals that her mother’s treatment of, and “favoritism” of Gabriel, greatly impacted the dynamic between her and her brother. In fact, it was Rachel’s disparity in her expectations of the two children that instigated life long tensions between the two siblings. It was also made evident that Rachel was much more forgiving of her son then her daughter. The enforcement of this double standard, was not a conscious decision, but rather reflective of society’s systemic and stereotypical portrayal of gender roles.
Although in current society we have made great progress in terms of gender equality, Baldwin's portrayal of women, as exemplified in his novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, serves as a valuable reference for how society and culture norms have limited their possibilities. Baldwin helps us understand the role that nature can play in one’s character development, and how an individual’s upbringing can determine the opportunities that life presents to them. As contemporary observers, the lessons Baldwin imparts in his work regarding nature versus nurture remain timeless: constant and true. In this vein, Baldwin’s novel provides us with perspective to be drawn upon, no matter what stage of life we find ourselves.