Moses, Man of the Mountain

by Zora Neale Hurston

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Here are some quotes from Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston:

Wherever the children of Africa have been scattered by slavery, there is the acceptance of Moses as the fountain of mystic powers. (viii)

Hurston writes about the enduring popularity of Moses among the people of the African diaspora. Moses is a popular figure among these people not only because he received the Ten Commandments but because he spoke directly to God.

Men learned to beat upon their breasts with clenched fists and breathe out their agony without sound. (1)

The ancient Hebrews are likened to slaves who live under the heel of the pharaoh, who is portrayed as a cruel plantation owner. In this retelling of the story of Exodus, the Hebrews speak in a Southern dialect and express the feelings and concerns of slaves. They must, for example, express their suffering silently—as they live under constant and brutal oppression.

If Horus is the weaver of the beginning of things, he's done put some mighty strange threads in his loom. (3)

Amran, a Hebrew slave, expresses himself in an American Southern dialect. This statement shows his antipathy towards the Egyptian god Horus. His life of being oppressed by the pharaoh has convinced him that this god is not his god. He doesn't believe in the creeds of the Egyptians, and he is primed to accept a new set of beliefs.

Long ago before he was twenty, he had found out he was two beings. (60)

Moses is portrayed as a human with real emotions. He is forceful in the light of day, but at night—in private—his true self emerges. Hurston portrays him as a man rather than as a myth. For example, he struggles with his marriage to the Ethiopian princess and knows in his heart that he cannot care for her. However, he is polite to her. In addition, he suffers when he observes the suffering of the Hebrews.

People talk about tenderness and mercy, but they love force. (105)

Moses struggles with leading his people. They are still part of a slave mentality that worships force, and they don't always respond well to a leader who shows compassion to them.

All you could do was give the opportunity for freedom and the man himself must make his own emancipation. (345)

The Hebrews must free their own minds from slavery after being physically freed. Freedom is not just a matter of physical emancipation, as former slaves also have to adopt the mindset of people who are free. Hurston is writing not only about the Hebrews of the Bible but also African Americans, who have been physically freed from slavery but who still struggle with the problems associated with their emancipation.

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