In “Salvation”, Langston gives adescription of his journey to false salvation at the age of thirteen.It is a short story that is written in first person tense by Langstonwhile he was twelve years old. He attends a revival service in hisaunt Reed’s church where he was promised to see light and Jesuswould come into his life. The story revolves around the issue ofsalvation and revival and it is evident by the end of the story thatthe young boy is bereft of faith in God. Notably, Langston was astrong believer in God until the events described in this storyunfolded. The short story has focused on three major aspects inreligion (Hughesand Arnold42). The author has demonstrated that there are people who followreligion blindly and there are those who falsely confess to havereceived Christ while they have different anterior motives. Theauthor has shown how people are lured into falsehoods due to socialpressure as he was forced to get saved.
The aspect of religion and salvation forms thebasis of this story. Firstly, it is essential to note that the titleof the story is ironical and it is contrary to the events that unfoldin the story. In religion, salvation means the delivery from sin andevil. However, it is evident from the story that the author is notdelivered from sin and does not experience the light and the comingof Jesus as he was promised. The author has used various charactersin the short story to expound on the topic of religion. The younggirls who are saved and jump when they apparently receive Jesusdescribes the clueless people who follow religion blindly withoutquestioning the reality of the issues they are being taught. Theauthor has also used the character of Westley who is reluctant to getsaved but who eventually bows to public pressure and decides to getsaved. Despite Westley being saved, it is clear from the story thathe did it without conviction and it was simply meant to lie to themembers of the congregation (Hughesand Arnold43). The character of the pastor is also essential in the story as itis his words that are used to attract people towards salvation. Theauthor quotes the pastors words such as “come to God, he is waitingfor you”. The author is suspicious of the religion since he cannotsee the God that the pastor claims is calling the children (Gates64). Aunt Reed, who invited the young author to the church, is alsopart of the congregation that is clueless about religious practicesand what they mean. In this story, there are two factions that ofthe clueless believers and that of critics such as the author andWestley.
Another aspect that can clearly be identifiedin the story is the innocence that is demonstrated by children.Whereas mature people such as Aunt Reed follow the religiouspractices blindly, children question the presence of God and thelight as Aunt Reed promised. The interpretation that Langston getsfrom the words that he will see the light and Jesus would come intohis life was basic and shallow. He expected to see a beam of lightand see Jesus physically at the venue (Hughesand Arnold43). The failure to see Jesus made the author to lose trust inreligion. This story has demonstrated the insincerity and theconfusion that surrounds religion. It is further confusing toyoungsters such as Langston who does not see any evidence that wouldconvince him to believe in God and follow his teachings. It isessential to note that he cries when he goes to bed later in the daysince he lied to the congregation about being saved. This helps himto realize the true meaning of religion.
The children in the church service such asWestley and Langston are not moved by the calls of the pastor to comeforward and get saved. However, the cheering from the crowd forcesthem to come forward and fake their salvation to the satisfaction ofthe congregation. The aspect that the author sought to bring out hereis the issue of public pressure (Hughesand Arnold43). Most people are forced to conform to public norms such asbelieving in a God whom they have never seen. The use of Biblicalterms such as hell, sinners, and the Holy Ghost are used by thepreachers to convince the crowd to believe in Jesus. According toLangton, such social pressure is unnecessary and it misleads thepeople.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Langton never receivedsalvation and his appearance before the church crowd to receive Jesuswas misleading. The selection of the title is ironical since theauthor does not receive any salvation. He uses the first parson tenseto enhance his conviction to the audience about the aspect ofreligion. Further, the use of different characters such as the younggirls jumping after receiving Jesus, Westley, Aunt Reed and thepastor, is a way of effectively presenting the aspect of religion.
Gates, Henry L. LangstonHughes: Critical Perspectives Past and Present.New York, NY: Amistad,2014.Print.
Hughes, Langstonand Arnold,Rampersad. Autobiography: TheBig Sea. Columbia: Univ. of MissouriPress, 2012.Print.