Langston Hughes’ “Salvation.” Essay

1262 words - 6 pages

This essay examines Langston Hughes’ short story entitled “Salvation.” The aspect of the story on which this illustration essay focuses is the main character, “Langston” (Hughes 204), and the aspect of Langston’s character on which this illustration essay focuses is the way in which is character is portrayed as so significantly influenced by the circumstances in which he is enmeshed. “Salvation” is an autobiographical short story. Hughes portrays an event that occurred to him when he was close to the age of thirteen. Hughes’ “Salvation” is strikingly consistent with some of the experiments and findings of social psychology, which can leave as strong an impression on its readers as a work of ...view middle of the document...

The first circumstance in which Hughes portrays himself as influenced by circumstances is that he heard how his “aunt spoke … for days” about a “special meeting for children” at a church revival that she was attending. This special meeting was designed to influence and convince the children to be “saved.” Langston’s aunt clearly explained to him that five things happened “when you were saved”: 1) that “you saw a light”; 2) that “something happened to you inside; 3) that “Jesus came into your life”; 4) that “God was with you from then on”; and 5) that “you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul” (Hughes 203). Langston “believed” his aunt about these five ideas about being saved; furthermore, he believed that these ideas were true since he “had heard a great many old people say the same thing, and it seemed to me they ought to know.” Hughes then uses the word “So” as a conjunction specifying a meaning similar to “therefore,” which shows the effect of the cause: “So I sat there calmly in the hot, crowded church, waiting for Jesus to come to me”; that is, therefore, he sat there waiting for Jesus, which was an effect of his hearing these ideas from his aunt and elderly members of the community (Hughes 203). This is the first circumstance that Hughes shows his beliefs to be influenced by the circumstances of his aunt and the elders in his community.

The second set of circumstance that influenced Hughes’ behavior begins as a continuation of the first. Because he believed his family and community members regarding the five ideas about being saved, he was “waiting for Jesus to come,” “waiting to see Jesus,” and “waiting serenely for Jesus, waiting, waiting - but he didn't come”; however, “nothing happened” (Hughes 203-204). Langston’s beliefs were reasonable because he accepted the authority of his aunt and the elders. These beliefs, established as the first circumstance, led to the second circumstance that influenced his behavior. He did not see Jesus, but his aunt in the church and the members of the church were entreating him to leave the mourners’ bench and go up to the altar, which would be an indication that he had been seen Jesus. Langston’s “aunt came and knelt at my knees and cried” and Hughes reports that “prayers and songs swirled all around me in the little church. The whole congregation prayed for me alone, in a mighty wail of moans and voices.” Langston began to feel the pressure of these circumstances: “Now it was really getting late. I began to be ashamed of myself, holding everything up so long.” This pressure to conform was beginning to lead him to act.

The third circumstance...

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