Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) is a famous African-American writer in the 20th century. Most of his writings depict the strength of experiential faith that originates from group pressure that calls for the ultimate compliance, which in turn destroys one’s personal conviction (Hughes and Harper, 1997). In his work entitled “Salvation,” Hughes describes his life during the 1940’s. It generally focused on an assembly related to each individual’s renewal. Hughes described his aunt’s continuous explanation that he will be saved and experience enlightenment if he allows Jesus to come and be a part of his life.
Hughes narrates that he obediently attended the series of assemblies but he never saw Jesus at the meetings. At the same time, he is coerced by his peers to claim that he has been spiritually saved. The author employed the medium of writing to demonstrate that young minds are simply do what their elders say and eventually realize as they mature that there is more to being obedient and that is, there is so much misinterpretation and disillusionment as children mature.
Hughes’ essay stresses the point that the young minds of children perceive things at a different level and that this may not be equivalent to those of adults. Children oftentimes take every word that they hear from adults at their literal equivalent, hence in his essay, Hughes was literally expecting that after attending several meetings at their church, Jesus would walk in and possibly approach the author. Since this expectation was not at all fulfilled, Hughes, who was then in his early teens, felt betrayed, fooled and disillusioned at the same time.
The theme of “Salvation” involved faith, obedience and innocence. Faith is described in relation to the congregation of Hughes’ aunt that has been getting together for several weeks, as well as the rest of the churchgoers and minister. Obedience is depicted as Hughes follows almost everything that his aunt tells him to do and act. In addition, Hughes also follows what the minister asked him to do, even if he did not understand why he had to come up to the front and claim that he has seen the light and Jesus has come. Another theme of the essay is innocence.
This is effectively described in the essay, wherein the author portrays his emotions that is characteristic of his age during the essay. The innocence of the author is well-expressed, which in turn shows that children have such young and inexperienced minds that they will literally believe anything they heard from adults. In addition, the essay also shows that children have high respect towards adults, as shown by what Hughes did when the minister asked him to come up to the front and claim that he has already seen Jesus.
The essay shows then that children would do anything they are asked to do, regardless of their naivety regarding what they are about to do. The essay makes good use of symbols, which are appropriate in emphasizing the effect of metaphors in children. The use of the words “light” and “lamb” were crucial in projecting the effect of metaphors in the essay. The tone of the essay was calm and somewhat sad because it described how innocence and obedience can result in disillusionment and guilt in a young mind.
The rhythm was fast, wherein the entire message and story were conveyed in approximately 10 paragraphs. The composition of the essay was simple yet straightforward, which was appropriate for a young teenager’s point of view. In Hughes’ writing entitled “Thank You, Ma’am,” he describes the story of Roger, a young teenager who tries to snatch a lady’s purse but fails to run away because he lost his balance. The story then describes that the lady, Mrs. Jones, was strong enough to drag Roger by the collar and bring him to her home.
She tells Roger to wash his face, drink some hot cocoa, while she explains to Roger that he did not have to steal someone’s purse just for the simple reason of wanting a pair of blue suede shoes. Interestingly, Mrs. Jones gives Roger 10 dollars which he can use to buy a new pair of blue suede shoes for himself. The essay describes the transformation of a young mind from a stealer and runaway to a truthful and clean boy. The best part of the writing is that Roger has quickly learned to say “Thank you, Ma’am” to Mrs. Jones, yet he was still a bit timid that only the words “Thank you” were uttered as the door was quickly closed on his face.
This writing is different from “Salvation” because it does not employ any type of symbolism, but mainly describes the juvenile experience of Roger as his wanting for a new pair of blue suede shoes worsened in time. The theme of the narration involved gratitude, because it teaches that an individual may get whatever he wants as long as he literally asks for it. The tone of the narration is both timid and angry, which expresses the feelings of Roger and Mrs. Jones, as culprit and victim, respectively. The rhythm of the writing is medium-paced, because it describes each blow or explanation from Mrs.
Jones is well-spaced intervals that are spread out in the entire narration. The composition of the story is simple and expressive. It is amazing how two different personalities could be well illustrated in writing. The anger of Mrs. Jones from being a victim of purse burglary is effectively described, and at the same time the timidity and desperateness of Roger to find an easy way to get his pair of blue suede shoes is well portrayed. Reference Hughes L and Harper AS (ed. ) (1997): The short stories of Langston Hughes. San Francisco: Hill and Wang. 320 pages.