Mountains are powerful symbols in American Literature. In the Bible, the mountains are sacred. They are a symbol of divinity and holiness. Mountains are closer to God which makes them so special. When Moses has a vision of God and receives the 10 commandments, it is on top of Mount Sinai. When Moses goes up to Mount Sinai:
“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the
top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “
Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through
to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who
approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break
out against them.” (King James’ Bible, Exodus 19: 19-22).
The mountains present a supernatural element to the lives of the Israelites. Even priests are not allowed to listen to God. The Mountain provides a moment for Moses to lift up from his reality and come closer to God. In the Bible, the holiest interactions with God or the Devil are placed on the mountains. They provide opportunity and present supernatural change whenever they are mentioned.
In the “I Have a Dream” speech, the mountain is a symbol for hopes and dreams. Beyond the mountains are where freedom and hope lies. It symbolizes a spiritual, mental, and emotional type of liberation. When Mr. King is delivering his speech he says, “This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” Martin Luther King uses the idea of mountains to express a climb over and beyond oppression, discrimination, and racism. King prophesize the mountains viewing them as a heavenly place where any issue can be challenged. Nothing is impossible once you reach the mountains – and that is King’s goal. He wants people to know that with faith, they can move mountains and change their fate. King uses this metaphor of “moving mountains” to show how with faith and strength, people of all races can come together and create a force to move a mountain. People look up to the mountains as a symbol of infinite possibility.
When Emerson discusses mountains and the transparent, transcendental eye, the mountaintop symbolizes great trials and tribulation – the seemingly important things in life (which are given to much attention in his opinion). According to Emerson, “Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain. The mind does not create what it perceives, anymore than the eye creates the rose.” Mountains symbolize the bigger things in life -the more important things. Emerson expresses that the most difficult obstacles in life are the little things that occur. He believes that once people are able to see and overcome the little tribulations in life, they ultimately complete the biggest one. The pebbles in life are often unexpected – they come and go without being seen. Emerson believes that once people have the ability to absorb nature and gain awareness, that they will be able to surpass the physical characteristics of life. The mountaintop symbolizes nature and a person’s ability to beyond it and enter reality. Once you surpass the mountaintop, you have reached a state of enlightenment and transcendentalism.
In the famous 60s song “Ain’t no mountain high enough”, mountains symbolize obstacles. During the time when this song was released, schools were being integrated in the U.S. and many white people were against this. The song is a story of a young man losing the love of his life and dealing with racism as he tries to weave his way through life. The song evokes a meaningful message opposing segregation and racism during the Civil Rights Movement. The song presents a deep connection with those who faced racial discrimination and segregation in America and supports peace and love. The song uses love and the young man’s dedication to it in order to symbolize a force powerful enough to defeat racism. Once the mountain is overcome, those fighting for equality have won.