“SALVATION” by Langston Hughes Essay
“SALVATION” by Langston Hughes
“Salvation” is an account of a young boy of twelve of his experience with his faith. It tells the story of a Langston who at this impressionable young age, became confused by the accounts of the other members of this congregation and his own personal experience with salvation. The setting of this story is in a healing mass, in a gathering of the faithful, headed by the priests to celebrate salvation. It depicts a set of frenzy to the point of fanaticism. The concept of faith, whispered into the open and impressionable minds of the youth, who honestly did not have any concept of their own at that time.
Langston was not yet jaded, nor cynical. He was but 12. He really did want to be saved. He really did want to experience seeing the light. (Hughes,1940) However, his experience inside the church exacted the opposite of the fervor in faith that his elders expected. He gave the appearance to be no different from the others who claimed to have seen the light. Yet, in him, the darkness seemed to grow because he knew for himself that it was a lie- to escape the pressure and apparent humiliation he was receiving from steadfastly waiting on the bench, to honestly see Jesus, in the light.
After the event, it appears that his innocence was shattered, his eagerness for salvation turned into disappointment and his faith shaken into unbelief. In his innocent young mind, he must have felt disappointed that he was abandoned by the savior everybody claimed to have seen. In his young mind he felt ashamed that he lied to everybody in order to spare himself and his kin the shame of being one who was different, one who was not able to see “the light”. Most importantly, he felt hurt that the “Jesus did not come to help him.
”(Hughes,1940). He must have felt rejected-a devastating blow to an adolescent who, at that stage in life, seek the guidance of and acceptance into society. Since the society he lived with was centered on their faith, he as a young person, must have felt that he could only be part of that society if he claimed to see what the rest of them saw. His deception must have ate at him from inside because though he wanted to be genuinely part of the society, he knew he could not claim to be in his heart, because he had lied.
It may have seemed to him that a welcome into a society based on a perceived lie was no good at all; more importantly, a welcome into the Faith was worthless if it was founded on a falsehood-a falsehood he was forced to tell because of the undue pressure that was seemed to have been placed on a young person as himself. Based on this narrative, there are a lot of assumptions one may make as to the resulting religiosity, or lack of, of Langston Hughes. His encounter with disappointment in his faith may have led him to be a skeptic all throughout his life.
It might have made him question all the doctrines of the Church preached to the faithful that required them to believe in the unseen. However, he might have been forced to appear adherent to the practices and outward manifestations of being a member of the church. He might have been forced to go on living the lie he started with, yet inwardly being unconvinced. However, an opposite scenario might also be speculated upon. Adolescence is a trying time for a person and whatever experience one might have had may lead to different realizations later in life.
With Langston experience, it might also be that he eventually sought to discover for himself the true meaning of “salvation”. It might be that, his experience with his family and with the society he belonged to, eventually led him to be resolute in his own beliefs and stand by his own principles, in order to make up for that one big lie he had to tell when he was 12. Whatever path Langston Hughes chose to follow in terms of his religious faith, it was greatly influenced by that time in his life when he was “saved.
” That point in his life would obviously be pivotal, in terms of his faith and of his ability to stand up to pressure. It might even have become a starting point for him to be a man, in charge of his thoughts, words, actions, and convictions. With regard to the lie he had told and the reasons why he kept it, one could only speculate. Yet, based on the author’s account, it must have been an act of self-preservation. Adolescents give such a high regard to acceptance. He might have stood by the lie to avoid reproach or castigation from his peers, from his superiors, from all the people who witnessed his “salvation.
” He might have kept the lie to himself to avoid more pain from rejection, as he already felt rejected by Jesus Himself, when young Langston failed to see him as the others claimed to. (Hughes,1940) Another possibility was that he did not want to bring shame to his aunt, who most fervently played for his salvation. He knew that he would not be the only one who would be humiliated when he reveals that he did not see Jesus at all. His young heart aimed to please, and being the only child to be unsaved would cause a great disappointment to his devout aunt.
Having to tell her that he lied about his “salvation” would cause her greater dejection, as she was the one who so zealously urged him to see the light. Whatever his reasons were for keeping the lie to himself, it may be attributed to his confusion with the concept of faith. His expectations and that of the other church-goers seemed to be complex and varied, Langston seemed to expect to wait until he saw the light and be saved before he could actually stand up and approach the priest and the rest of the young ones.
The others seemed to expect him to see it at once. Failure to do so seemed to indicate a lack and what a horrible state that seemed to be, as depicted by the crowd’s passionate praying in order that the boy be “saved”. In the end, it appeared as if the lie was his real “salvation” at that moment. It was what saved him from the emotional persecution brought down by his peers. Furthermore, it seemed his innocence only made the matter more grave for the idea that he could only be saved by a lie appeared to be what was really tearing him up inside.
In this same light, the poem “Unsaid is analyzed” as a parallel to this “Salvation. ” It is a poem of six lines. It pertains to emotions and words that have no outlet, internal struggles that stay within a person. It speaks of the turmoil most people have inside themselves, trying to hide the most important things for unknown reasons. “Unsaid” is a simple, yet artistic way of conveying that all individuals feel more than what they reveal. Concealing emotions seem to be a necessity in society, suggests the poem.
It supports that the things which are not expressed in words are also as real as the ones that can be heard by others. It also states that it seems to be a way of life, for everyone has something to hide inside himself. This poem supports, and is supported by the story “Salvation”, for both of these allude to a bottling of emotions, a concealment of true self. In “Salvation”, the author is “saved” by a lie which he had chosen to keep unto himself as to escape shame. However, it led him to a struggle with in himself.
Inside, he is torn knowing it was wrong to tell a lie yet also understanding that he seemed to have no other choice if he wanted to be accepted. His thoughts and the resulting doubt in his faith are the “unsaid”. As the poem talks of keeping so many emotions locked up within, the story depicts how such “unsaid” sentiments affect individuals, especially as one as young as the author. On the other hand, the poem artfully describes the accompanying complex sensations to a thought left unuttered. In simple verse, it suggests images of strong moving emotions such as grief and love.
It dares to suggests that most of human lives are lived within. It also defends that what people keep from others are as real as what they choose to reveal. All of this pertain to varying degrees of emotionality, in relation to those that are “unsaid”. Meanwhile, the story presents an example in the person of Langston. In the same way that the boy in the story had his own compelling reasons to lie, so do other individuals. There are countless explanations as to why people lie or people leave things unsaid.
In any case, it seems to be either the basic instinct of self preservation or a noble intention to spare others of pain, that motivates such actions. The poem suggests its readers to validate the writer’s statements by recalling “letters that we write our dead”(Gioia, 1950). This last line enjoins readers to share in such sentiments by revisiting forgotten or buried feelings for people long gone, urging them to reminisce their own personal struggles with their emotions of having been unable to convey all their thoughts to their dead loved one.
In relation to the essay of Langston Hughes, as a boy, he found himself confronting his own emotions as he cried when he went home after the mass. So as other people find themselves examining their own feelings, the boy Langston also found himself looking for the real reason for his tears. “Salvation” and “Unsaid” are both works that delve into the intricacies of human emotions. These give readers a feel of what internal struggle feels like. These present the resulting predicament of individuals who chose concealment as a means to cope with pressure exerted upon them by external factors.
These works grab hold of readers by presenting an introspective mood. Ironically, as both works speak of concealment of thoughts, the essay by Langston Hughes is a move towards revelation, as he recounted his boyhood encounter with faith and narrated it in the eyes of a 12-yer old. The poem also attempts revelation by actually acknowledging that humans have hidden thoughts and sentiments they’d rather left unsaid. In this light, one can surmise that the parallelism in these two works not only lay in their allusion to hidden emotions.
The manner by which the authors of these works eventually revealed their thoughts on this matter also follows a similar pattern. Ultimately, it appears that these two works are about human struggles inside and outside the self. These are about the experiences humans go through to find what they are looking for-be it themselves, their faith or other matters this world holds. REFERENCES: Gioia, Dana. ”Unsaid” (details of your BOOK SOURCE for this poem) Hughes,Langston. “Salvation”. (details of your BOOK SOURCE for this essay)
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 30 December 2016
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