In “Salvation,” Langston Hughes says that adults shouldn’t pressure children with unrealistic expectations because it will backfire, using narration and description modes to prove his point. Hughes narrates an autobiographical story about being a twelve year old, African-American boy, who is told about being saved and joins the rest of the children of the congregation to “see and hear Jesus. ” He faces an external conflict between with the congregation of the church and his Auntie Reed.
He sits in the front of the church and watches the children, one-by-one, get up and go to the altar, and he ends up being the last child sitting on the front row. The climax occurs when he finally gets up to be saved, even though he hears and feels nothing. He finally caves due to the pressure he feels by being the only one left, and is ashamed, not wanting to be by himself anymore. Hughes’ resolution occurs when he is lying in bed after the service, and faces the reality that has he lied to everyone, and had not seen Jesus.
He now has lost his faith and goes on to say that he doesn’t believe in Jesus anymore because he didn’t come to help him. The author tries to persuade the reader not to pressure children with unrealistic or false expectations, such as religion, because it is faith-based and there is no possibility of physically seeing or hearing Jesus. Hughes grabs the reader’s attention with his personal appeal that he, along with the congregation, wants to be saved and see Jesus because that is what he was raised to believe, but finds that the realization is the opposite.
Hughes’ literary aim is very powerful and evokes multiple emotions from the reader. The metaphorical line “bringing the lambs to the fold,” when talking about the children coming down to be saved makes me think of the language used in the Old South. The preacher sings a rhythmical song, “ninety and nine safe in the fold, but one was left out in the cold” when trying to get the children to start coming up off the bench to be saved.
The imagery of “old women with jet-black faces and braided hair, old men with work-gnarled hands” really gives the reader a strong visual of the laboring congregation. I really enjoy this story, and can also relate to it. When I was nine years old, my Grandfather who I had met only once came to visit from Arkansas. My whole family went to church on Sunday together and my Dad asked me before the service if I wanted to go down to the front at the conclusion of church to confirm my faith with him, and be baptized a few weeks later.
He said that it would mean the world to my Grandfather, so I abided. After the sermon, the Pastor asked if anyone wanted to be saved, and my Father and I went down and professed our faith in the Lord, and were baptized a month later. To this day, I still feel like I was pressured into making that decision, and felt like it was just something you did around my age, and it didn’t help that my Dad threw in the bit about my Grandfather being there. After those events, I never felt like I saw or heard Jesus, and ultimately, felt more alone inside than I ever had before.