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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 434

Moses, Man of the Mountain is a retelling of the Biblical story of Moses and the Hebrews’ exodus. Zora Neale Hurston adapts the familiar story to create parallels between the Hebrews’ enslavement and that of African Americans in the United States. Hurston changes some elements of character and plot, and she enhances the parallel through the use of vernacular speech patterns associated with Black American speech. Alterations to Moses himself including identifying him as a prince of Egypt, thus making him African. Hurston also focuses on the singular character as a social leader of rebels more than as a religious figure.

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As the novel traces Moses from childhood into adulthood, the author shows his growth out of a life of privilege and ease through his revelation of the injustices his family is perpetrating. He grows up alongside prince Ta-Phar, who becomes the next, very cruel Pharaoh, who harbors an envious grudge against Moses. As much as a divine revelation, however, Moses’ epiphany is shown as opening his eyes to the ill effects of his own actions; he refuses to continue his complicity in abusing the Hebrews through slavery. This insight is encapsulated when he kills a guard who is beating a slave. From that incident, Moses goes into exile. After his desert wanderings take him to Mount Sinai, he goes to live in Midian.

In this new environment, he comes under the tutelage of Jethro. Both through embracing monotheism and learning practical and magical skills, Moses begins his journey to leadership. He also marries Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah. Defeating a serpent and learning from the Book of Thoth in Koptos also help prepare him to assume his destiny. After a burning bush enlightens him, he takes up his mission back in Egypt.

The separate factors of securing the Hebrews’ freedom and convincing them that they can have a better life away from Egypt are both Moses’ responsibilities. Moses draws on his considerable magic to cast the plagues, thus convincing Pharaoh of his powers. Having motivated the Hebrews, Moses leads them away from their bondage. As they flee, Moses parts the Red Sea to make their path and then sweeps away Pharaoh’s pursuing army.

The remainder of the novel, as the Hebrews wander in the wilderness, includes the complications of their new life of freedom from slavery but not from deprivation or temptation; the latter includes reversion to idol worship. Miriam and Aaron, two Hebrew leaders who consider themselves Moses’ equals, challenge his leadership. Ultimately he realizes that his work is done, and they will find security in their new home across River Jordan.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 846

The novel’s central action is based on the Old Testament tale of Moses leading the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. In order to trace Moses’ development as a leader, Hurston begins her version with his childhood. As a boy, Moses is first influenced by Mentu, the Pharaoh’s Hebrew stableman, who teaches him about nature and the languages of animals. Moses next turns to the Egyptian priests for instruction in the magic and voodoo used “to distract the minds of unthinking people from their real troubles.”

Although Moses is not interested in acquiring power and prestige, as the son of the Pharoah’s daughter he poses a threat to the position of Ta-Phar, the Pharoah’s son and heir. He defeats Ta-Phar in ceremonial war games and consequently becomes a favorite of the Pharaoh. He is called on to lead the army, and as a result of his skill, Egyptian rule extends over the Middle East. As a result, Egypt gains glory, and for political reasons Moses gains an Ethiopian princess for his wife.

Soon palace intrigue and the rumors spread by...

(The entire section contains 1280 words.)

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