Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston (1939)

Moses Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston reveals her strength as a writer through character development and use of narration. Her 1939 novel, Moses, Man of the Mountain, tells the story of Moses and the Book of Exodus from an African-American perspective. The Zora Neale Hurston Digital archive describes the book: 

“Moses, Man of the Mountain is Zora Neale Hurston’s attempt at re-writing (or re-righting) the Bible from an Afro-American perspective. She retells the story of the Exodus, which is the triumphant tale of Moses and the Israelites’s escape from Egyptian slavery.

This story has resonated in the African-American community for centuries, according to Albert Raboteau, who writes in Slave Religion that ‘the symbols, myths and values of Judeo-Christian tradition helped form the slave community’s image of itself.’ Hurston’s image of Moses is that he is African and his people are African-Americans … She then tells Moses’s story, beginning with his escape in the basket of bulrushes and culminating in his role as the great conjurer, the ‘power doctor’ of humankind.”

Zora adds her unique embellishments to the tale. She depicts Moses growing up in the Pharaoh’s palace as his grandsonand as the commander of the Egyptian armies. As his power grows, so too, does his realization of the realities of the Hebrew slaves. And the story wouldn’t be complete without Moses’ encounter with the burning bush.

“In Hurston’s view” concludes the synopsis of the book on the aforementioned archive, “Moses is a down-to-earth man; yet, he is also a hoodoo master: ‘He knows the ways and meaning of Light and he heard the voice of Darkness and knew its thoughts.’ She shows how he is transformed once he takes up the cause of the oppressed.”

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Tell my horse Zora Neale Hurston cover

You might also enjoy: Tell My Horse by Zora Neale Hurston
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A 1939 review of Moses, Man of the Mountain

Here’s a review from the time when the novel was first published (please note that is uses the parlance of that day):

A review of Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston in the Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1939:  Here is a most refreshing and diverting book.It possesses that quality of mystical naivety and primitive reverence which endowed “Green Pastures” with beauty. Quite simply it is the Biblical chapter “Exodus” as it might have occurred to an Israel composed of black folk.

An engaging aspect of this tale lies in the author’s complete self-effacement. Miss Hurston does not interrupt the legend to make interpretations. She lets a Moses, whose conversation is curiously flavored with the vernacular of the American Southern dark, think his own thoughts; and they are good, honest, wise conclusions, adaptable to our own unsettled times.

“This freedom is a funny thing,” he tells the people whom he has delivered out of bondage, when they offer him a crown at Jeshurun.

“It ain’t something permanent like rocks and hills. It’s like manna; you just got to keep on gathering it fresh every day. If you don’t one day you’re going to find you ain’t got no more. You done got free of Pharaoh and the Egyptian oppressors; be careful you don’t raise up none among yourselves.”

The narrative ends with the death of Moses on the sacred mountain. The scene is embellished with all the religious magic and pious necromancy which clothe the American Negro’s conception of the Old Testament “Voodoo Man.” Miss Hurston’s writing achieves, at times, a weird beauty of its own.

Moses, Man of the Mountain, her fifth book, combines a stately charm with the humor of anachronism, and a warmth of characterization that vitalizes the devout fortitude and faith of the Negro spirit.

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Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston

Moses, Man of the Mountain on Amazon

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More about Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston

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Their eyes were watching god by Zora Neale Hurston

See also: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

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