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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Langston Hughes Questions

The main point in Hughes’s narrative was that he lost his faith in Jesus, God, and the entire Christian religion because Jesus did not come and save him from damnation when he was specifically told from an adult- in his mind where adults have the experience and the background knowledge to know what they are talking about- that gave him an impression that it has happened before due to personal experience. The change that results from the experience is doubt in Christianity as a whole and its idol/icon Jesus from his naivety and ignorance in believing something just because he was taught to believe it during adolescence.

The feelings of guilt and shame is what made Hughes finally go up and become “saved” by the preacher- also, the intense heat and cramped space, since Hughes did mention his uncomfortable feeling due to the environment numerous of time throughout the writing. During paragraph ten, Langston Hughes admitted that he was feeling a sense of guilt because he was allowing the time to pass by quickly and night was fall swiftly on his own accord. He did not want to keep the congregation up all night because of his selfish desires to se Jesus and have him save him himself, so he ended the long service and stood to be saved.

The title immediately draws the readers into a religious aspect, or way of thinking. Salvation is commonly used as a synonym for deliverance in many religions. The title may embed an image of the infamous cross that Jesus had died on to save his followers from sin (I.E. Salvation: Deliverance from sin and evil; future sin and damnation). Others may get the image of another religious figure that idolizes peace and love, world order and understanding. These revolve around the main ideology of salvation. With peace and love, there is harmony. With harmony, there is order and understanding. Chaos ridden world results in the ultimate symbol of salvation, being saved from sin and damnation. The first two sentences revolve around the main point and goal of salvation, to save ones soul from evil and harm, but contradicts its ultimate stance as well. By Hughes admitting he was saved, he is telling his readers he is apart of a religious community and follows the rules and guidelines of being a saviors child. By contradicting himself by being technical, he resorts back into his logical way of thinking by not becoming biased based on his religious belief. The title and the first two sentences both portray “Salvation” in both the connotation and the annotation. You can become saved by the lord when accepting his rules and allowing him to cleanse your soul from evil and future life in hell. You can also come into “salvation” by accepting the invitation of the lord’s messenger, but nor of the lord; thus making you “saved” but not brought into salvation. With Hughes, he is saying it is a two-way street. You can either accept the lord and become saved, or decline his offer and words of wisdom, but still follow his commands.

Hughes wrote “Salvation” as part of his autobiography two decades after the incident because he finally came to terms with himself and his belief in Christianity. He had believed in Jesus and God devotedly for thirteen years and had his beliefs snatched from him instantly by his aunt’s comment taken seriously. He thought that if Jesus really wanted to accept him in his kingdom of holiness, he would recruit him himself. Due to his non-arrival, Hughes was forced to believe that maybe Jesus was not real and if he was, he was not welcome into his kingdom-though a sinner like Westley could be admitted without punishment. Though it took a while for Hughes to come to terms with his belief in Jesus Christ, his purpose was not just to express his feelings prompted by a significant event. His purpose was to expose that he finally came to terms with himself, his uncertainty, and his religion through all the doubt and pain two years prior. Since he was still a child and raised on the Christian belief system, coming to terms with the idea that the man that is supposed to save you from all evil and hell might not be real can being traumatizing. The main goal Hughes set out to accomplish in writing “Salvation” was that he had finally came to accept that maybe there is no god and Jesus might not have ever been real to begin with; that everything his fundamental foundation was established on was a lie. His focus was not to criticize his aunt or the other individuals in the congregation; after all, his aunt was the one that got him excited and ready to meet his lord and savior, but mainly to add them as dramatic effect and/or climactic effect towards the ultimate end when he finally found that Jesus was not coming. Throughout the piece, the congregation would sing louder as each child rose to the podium and became “saved”; thus increasing the pressure and anxiety Hughes would feel as each moment neared to that meeting with Jesus. In fact, his focus was partially in favor of explaining childhood naivety or rites of passage between young adults. In the beginning of the passage, Hughes says he was saved before he was thirteen- almost thirteen in fact- and this indicates that the marking of being labeled as that “teen” would symbolize him as a step closer towards becoming a man. With this rite of passage nearing, it was almost time for him to make his own decisions and take manly responsibilities. Choosing to follow his given religion or not was one of those duties he had attended to during the incident. By him not meeting Jesus, he shows himself as hurt to the reader through the last paragraph as crying, not as a child but as a BIG boy (coming to the stereotype that men never show their emotions while hinting off to that whole ideology of becoming a man). He hints that he is somewhat a man, but not fully there yet because he shows his tears of disappointment, hurt, betrayal, and anger from not meeting Jesus; and this rite of passage in religion has shown him what was real and what was not.

What Hughes seems to assume about his readers in the familiarity with the service’s he describes is that most, if not all his readers, are black or of African-American decent. Since majority of African-Americans were raised in the church and used the church as an outlet from the civil injustice during that time, he was able to relate to them by describing a typical Christian church service being held in the black community to give a better understanding of the situation. Details such as the descriptions of some of the congregation members make these assumptions clear and precise. Jet-Black faces and braided hair of elderly women is an African-American person would see regularly in the church as well as the calloused hands of the elderly men who worked all day to make scraps to live by. Also, since singing and shouting is very common and important in African-American church communities, Hughes thought he could better tell his story by giving something his people could relate to during a regular church sermon. The descriptions also portray the church service as lively, loud, and vibrant. African-American churches are predominately filled with music only filled with deep feeling and emotion that it becomes lively and loud enough to become utterly intense and crowded.

The dialogue re-creates the pressure Hughes feels by the reenactment of being filled with that sense of shame and guilt by making everyone wait on him to become delivered and saved. By writing down the exact reenactment of the way he felt upon being next to last on the mourner’s bench, it gives Hughes a sense of being guilty and ashamed from making everyone in church wait until nightfall for his relgious arrival when he was just waiting for someone else of his own. His deliverance was the main concern of the congregation and by ignoring that purpose; he was washed with a wave of shame from not respecting the wishes of his elders and become saved not attending to his own person agenda and awaiting the arrival of Jesus.

Hughes chose narration to better explore the themes of this essay because he could better understand them from a first-person point of view rather than speak on someone else’s behalf. By writing from one’s own perspective, it gives the author more credibility in reference, knowledge, and experience due to their first hand encounter. With Hughes writing his essay in first person, he had every opportunity to look at his own experience from a different angle at any given moment when writing; creating a list of unasked questions, he never would have thought to ask if he wrote in third-person. Such as, “Why did I do that?” “Was that for dramatic effect?” “Was I really sad?” “Is my religion true?” and so forth and so on. Hughes could tell from experience the events from the past, reflect upon them, and categorize them accordingly to suit each theme he saw fit while best describing it to his literary capability to explore and annotate his memorable moments. Narration helps the author better direct and move along the piece while exploring each theme possible through the outlooks of different point-of-views.
In his narrative, Hughes inserts explanations about his behavior and jumps ahead in time by omitting events when describing his ceremony of “salvation” and the evening of the service. Hughes gives a detailed timeline of his emotions, thoughts, and feelings throughout the piece leading up to his turn to go up to the podium to be saved by the preacher and meet Jesus. He explains that he got tired of waiting around for his lord to come and save him, and went up to the preacher to save anymore of the congregation’s time he could waste further. All events are briefly depicted in the essay, but his thoughts about it immediately after are left out strategically; all leading up to scene where he describes himself crying in his bed, under his bed quilts like a child. He later explains his crying after he states that his aunt is lead under the impression that he was stricken by the Holy Ghost, but clarifies that he was saddened that his faith and belief in Jesus has dwindled because of his failure to meet Jesus in person. In contrast, however, Hughes expands time by drawing moments out when describing the revival. Literally half the essay is describing the anxiety and anticipation Hughes had felt upon awaiting for Jesus’ arrival, and the lessening number of “lambs” that had found their way to god in mixture with the repetitive phrase “It was getting late” had shown the reader time had indeed passed by quickly- or slowly, depending on how Hughes had felt during the revival. Each of these manipulations of the timeline relates to Hughes main objective by becoming symbolic of his religious growth. He had been established on the Christian religion since childhood in thoughts of believing in Jesus as his lord and savior, and now when he has the opportunity to finally meet Jesus, but is let down upon learning that he did not come to save him from damnation; his growing devotion had slowed to almost a complete stop. The expanding of time symbolizes the well-taught process of his religious upbringing. It too many years for him to become devoted to believing in Jesus and becoming a devoted follower unto his rules; each year being a new lesson as more knowledge on the sins, wrongs, and rights of the Christian religion are established and embedded within him. The jumping ahead in events symbolizes how fast his devotion could be lost after all that had been taught to him as a child. Because of one incident where he was led on false pretenses in thinking he’d actually meet Jesus in person, he was let down and immediately disregarding his teaching and came to the conclusion that there is no Jesus without giving it second thought.
Hughes uses transitions to signal sequence throughout the rest of the essay when describing the uproar of joyous celebration between the congregations when he finally decides to become saved with “suddenly”. He uses “that night” when describing the after effect of not meeting Jesus, “Finally” to show that he was nearing the end of the revival when it was just him and the boy, Westley, “Then” to show what had occurred after Westley had become saved, and “Now” to signal the current time in place in which he was standing during the revival.
The anylasis of the revival process is essential to the essay because the essay is centered on Hughes’ contradiction of becoming saved in a ceremony that marks a person’s new path to god. Without background knowledge on a revival, the reader would not know what the author was attending, why it was of such importance in the church community, and why it had affected him so emotionally to know that everything he once believed in had led him on falsehoods and accusations. With Hughes giving knowledge to his reader in describing what a revival was and how it worked, it would better help the reader identify how emotionally unstable Hughes must have felt after he had his religious morality undone while coming to terms with why Hughes had contradicted himself when speaking on his behalf as being a “saved” man. If background information were not given on Hughes’ revival, the play on words with “salvation” would have never been discovered without intensive research and how the focus of a revival had contradicted itself when in terms with Hughes.

Hughes’s language reveals his adult attitude in a sorrowful guilt manner that portrays him as an older version of himself looking back at one of the most tragic incidents in his life. The passage at the end of the essay really summarizes Hughes’s feelings completely as a sense of feeling betrayed guilty, hurt and saddened. Looking back on his childhood, Hughes has had time to reflect on things that had happened in the past and come to a conclusion with finality after many years of thought. His revival being one of them plays a role of importance since it marked the day he stopped idolizing Jesus. Feelings mixed between guilt for lying to his aunt and sadness for being let down by his god are all shown within the passage as the words “I cried” and “I didn’t believe” really stick out as marking a cause and effect relationship between being hurt from a cause and its result of non-believing. His overall attitude majority shows sorrow as it feels as if Hughes had lost something of his childhood he can never regain back.

The effect of using child-like sentence structure is to fit the theme of “being in the past”. Since the essay is a flashback of Hughes’s revival that happened to him two decades prior, Hughes wanted to set the tone and mood to fit the time for better understanding and comprehension of his feelings during that time and the effects they had on him before and after. The sentence structure of an adolescent child only adds onto the effect of setting the scene of being a twelve-year-old boy in anxious arrival of an icon.

Hughes expects to see Jesus in person while his aunt feels that her nephew, Hughes, has come to accept him in his heart as his lord and savior. Hughes wants to physically touch and talk to Jesus while his aunt feels that Hughes has come to realize that he is nothing without his savior and needs him to guide and walk him through his life with the word of his father. The significance in the story is that, when Hughes’s aunt had told him he would come to “see” Jesus; he took it literally and expected to actually come face to face with the son of god. By this misunderstanding, Hughes finds himself in a position where he no longer believes in the son of god and feels his years of devotion towards him were wasted because of it.