Ms. Cassandra Clarke
April 14, 2016
Salvation is a short story by Langston Hughes describing the point when he discovered a significant truth about faith and religion. This work is classified as a short story because of the short length of its prose form. In the story, Hughes’ very religious aunt, Aunt Reed, takes him to a special church meeting when he is twelve, “to bring the young lambs to the fold.” The singing, preaching and praying in the crowded church makes for a highly charged religious environment. All the children who “have not yet been brought to Jesus” are made to sit in the front row so that the rest of the congregation can pray for them. Young Hughes and another little boy, Westley, are left after all the other children get saved. Westley eventually decides to get saved because he is tired of sitting at the center of attention. Hughes takes a while longer because he expects to physically see Jesus – to see a light and feel something inside, just like Aunt Reed had described to him. Nothing happens.
The pressure on Hughes to get saved intensifies as the preacher and his aunt urge him on. He realizes that he is holding up the whole service and feels ashamed of himself. He conforms to mob psychology by pretending to go to Jesus even though he is convinced that the other children are lying about it. The crowd is jubilant about his decision, but that night Hughes cries in his bed because of matters too complex for his young mind to fully decipher: he feels guilty for lying to the church and loses faith in Jesus because Jesus did not show up as expected. However, the guilt
Hughes feels as a result of lying draws the conclusion that he has discovered the true spirit of religion.
I agree with whenHughes writes in first person to get the reader to identify with him. Writing in first person can be problematic if the reader fails to identify with the writer, but Hughes does a good job of keeping his reader engaged throughout the story. He also uses a limited perspective to enable his readers identify more closely with him instead of distracting them with thoughts and feelings of other characters.
His title “Salvation” is rather ironic because he is describing a situation where he lost faith in Jesus Christ, yet in Christianity, salvation means believing in Jesus Christ. Here, Hughes is trying to appeal to his reader’s logic. Hughes uses a lot of humor to engage the reader. Of the preacher, he says: “And he held out his arms to all us young sinners there on the mourners’ bench. And the little girls cried. And some of them jumped up and went to Jesus right away.” His dramatization of the event in very simple, child-like language makes it funny because the undertone much more mature. He uses repetition to emphasize his sarcasm about religion: he mentions “going to Jesus,” and being “saved” often, to show that the people responsible for providing religious teaching did not really explain what those terms meant. The preacher, for instance says “Why don’t you come? My dear child, why don’t you come to Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you. Why don’t you come?” But Hughes does not see or feel Jesus. Hughes also utilizes Christian jargon like “salvation,” “sinners,” “the Holy Ghost” and “hell” as well as allusions to Biblical stories like “the Parable of the Lost Sheep” to enable the reader to be fully drawn into the highly religious scenario that he is describing.
What I disagree with is that Hughes useshighly dramatic characters to enhance the imagery in his story. For instance, Westley admits to lying about “going to Jesus” then goes on to sit surrounded by “sisters and deacons praying.” This image represents believers who pretend to have faith, but have ulterior motives. The little girls who immediately jump up to be saved when the preacher mentions it seem to represent clueless people who are easily swayed hence follow religious practices without any question or understanding of what it means. Whereas Hughes represents the skeptics who tolerate doubt, but are too fearful to challenge the majority, hence being hypocrites just like everyone else.
From the story point of view, I believe we all need salvation at onepoint of life because life is a collective phenomenon that is extremely complicated, and confusing. Sometimes people need blind faith, or something to just believe in. Everything and everyone is relative, so salvation for each individual is soley based on them. It’s more of a personal thing. It’s something you do for your own convenience. Salvation is something that’s needed by people to help them cope with what we know as life.
“Langston Hughes “Salvation”.” Web log post. Amycarrillo.blogspot. Amy Carillo, 19 Jan. 2009. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. ;http://amycarrillo.blogspot.com/2009/01/langston-hughes-salvation.html;.