Form and Content
Moses, Man of the Mountain retells the Exodus story of the Hebrew Bible as an allegory for African American history and culture. While keeping to the broader brush-strokes of the biblical account (from the Torah books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), Hurston places the Moses story in a much broader mythological, theological, and political context. By doing so, she creates her own Moses legend, unique in its structure and content. As she asserts in her introduction to the novel, Moses legends are not confined to the biblical literature of Judaism and Christianity, but they are “all abroad in the world,” especially in Africa: “Then Africa has her mouth on Moses. All across the continent there are legends of the greatness of Moses.”
Hurston uses this African cultural context, as well as the linguistic patterns of African American vernacular, to set up an extended mythological meditation on the nature of racial identity, leadership, political power, class, and freedom. Written in 1939, the novel allegorically sets these issues in the context of early twentieth century African American culture.
As the novels opens, Amram and Jochebed, a Hebrew slave couple in Egypt, struggle to save their newborn son from the Egyptian police, who are under orders from the pharaoh to kill all male Hebrew babies. The worried parents send the baby boy down the Nile river in a floating basket, watched over from the riverbanks by his sister Miriam. Miriam falls asleep and loses track of the basket. Although she does not see where it goes, when later confronted by her hysterical mother, she frantically constructs a tale...
(The entire section is 669 words.)