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The Threshing Floor
The couplet at the beginning of the section is also relevant to the contents of the chapter.
Then I buckled up my shoes,
And I started.
John gets enlightened and gains confidence to face god. With determination, he decides to follow the command of the Lord for the betterment of his fellowmen. These two lines can be connected to the couplet that begins the first Part of the book.
I looked down the line
And I wondered.
In the beginning of the novel, John reacts like any normal boy of his age who is forced by his parent to act in a particular fashion. Being made to understand that he should grow up to be a preacher, John begins to hate religion and longs for the pleasures of the life. However, guilt and fear chase him. He is unable to understand the complexities of life and the will of god. Thus, he is a confused individual who "looked down the line" and "wondered.’ However, at the end of the novel, divine grace showers on him. Now, he is no more doubtful of his future. He is aware of his mission in life and is determined to pursue it.
Florence gets the opportunity she had been waiting for. She confronts Gabriel and tells him about the letter of Deborah that exposes his unlawful union with Esther. She succeeds in creating fear in the heart of her brother and warning him about his conduct towards Elizabeth and John. She shakes his secure world and shatters his pride. When she leaves him, Gabriel is a bitter man tortured by his past mistakes. Florence is relieved but Gabriel is burdened with guilt.
The ambulance plying on the road and alerting the passersby is a symbol of danger for men who have sinned but fail to repent for their actions. Gabriel is reminded of his deeds and the punishment of god, as he views the speeding vehicle. However, instead of confessing his guilt and acting repentant, he loses his temper and chides Florence for digging up his past. Florence becomes aware of the shadow of death lurking over her, when she notices the hurrying ambulance. However, she is prepared for her end now, since she has unmasked the godly image of Gabriel and exposed his sins to him. She has done her duty towards Elizabeth and John by warning Gabriel from being harsh to them.
James Baldwin ends the novel on a note of hope. John steps into his house with confidence and greets his father with a smile. He sheds his fears and doubts and gets ready to perform his formidable task. Elizabeth and Florence feel relieved and get prepared to confront their future boldly. Only Gabriel looks grim. He realizes the futility of carrying on an act and pretending to be righteous but is afraid to accept his defeat. Perhaps, John might bring about his reformation!