The Salvation of Langston
The Salvation of Langston
The article “Salvation” is a narration of real life experiences of the author. The definitive storytelling and near accurate memory of the sequence of events highlight the themes of deception, solitude, grief, and guilt. The author comes out as patient as he remains the last person in the mourner’s bench waiting for redemption by Jesus. Hughes is also virtuous as he acknowledges that lying is wrong and should be accompanied by punishment hence his surprise when Wesley suffers no consequence. He is guilt stricken when he becomes the perpetrator of the lie. The article illustrates how other people’s bad actions, if not curbed, give impetus to others to repeat the same. The author is pressured by friends, relatives, and the pastor to receive salvation. The dominant questions that the article raises concern the definition, and a person’s acquisition of real salvation. The author, at the tender age of twelve, is caught in a dilemma whether to stand firm by his beliefs or to give in to peer pressure. Though all the key points are prominent, the most important is the power of individual interpretation of meaning.
After incessant prayers to urge Langston on into salvation, it all came down to a personal decision. The author had mixed feelings whether to wait for a sign from Jesus to legitimize the important step in life he was about to take or to be saved just as a formality to please the anxious congregation. His resolve to wait for Jesus was shaken when Westley, who was facing a similar situation, decided to end his suffering. Having been surrounded by almost the whole congregation the temperature had risen to an unbearable extent. Westley suggested to Langston a possible solution to their predicament. The fear of God’s punishment for lying deterred him from mirroring his friend’s action. On seeing that that there was no immediate repercussion for Westley’s lies, he opted to reciprocate the same feat. The interpretation of the meaning of the boys’ action varied from one person to the other. The congregation believed it to be a victory over Satan. Satan was responsible for their reluctance. Their prayers had nudged Langston in the right direction. Conversely, the boys concluded that the prayers were just rituals with no real significance. Children, by default, believe adults know what they are doing and consequently believe anything that comes from their mouth. The article emphasizes the importance of clarity when conveying sensitive messages to children as they take things literally or out of context. The aunt’s words were symbolic of the transformation of the boy’s life and not necessarily an immediate change. Langston took his aunt’s words at face value. He interpreted it as Jesus coming personally to him and lighting him was a prerequisite for salvation. The absence of the light and internal change corresponded to the inexistence of Jesus. The subjectivity of interpretation is shown again, when Langston’s aunt attributes the author’s tears to Holy Ghost conviction.
The author perceived that his actions did not conform to the set rubric for behavior in his immediate society. Langston’s decision to go over the motions of salvation was prompted by not only the uncomfortable environment but also feeling of shame as is evidenced in paragraph eleven. “Now it was really getting late. I began to be ashamed of myself for holding everything up so long.” The congregation was waiting for him to proceed with the prayers for another young convert. He was emerging as disobedient to the elders’ wishes. The author sacrifices his desire to see Jesus for the congregation. The adults come off as inadvertently imposing their faith in the children. The author exposes how religion at times becomes overwhelmed by spiritual antics that they forget the main purpose. The young Hughes is distraught first because he is thirteen on his way to become a man and cries, which according to the male stereotype, is unbecoming. At age, thirteen having taken his aunt’s words literally depicts him as naïve boy.
The article shows the divergence in interpretation of the same concepts by different generations. As the author was younger, he took things literarily. With maturity, he was able to get a completely new perspective on the issue. The article is not meant to condemn his aunt and the revival crusade but rather to attach meaning to events of his childhood and their implications. The details allow the reader to recreate the story in his head and insert himself into Hughes shoes. The reader can identify with the author’s frustration as he waited for Jesus and how disappointment he felt when Jesus did not show. The irony is evident that the day Hughes is to be saved, is the day loses his faith.
The primary concept in this article is the interpretation of meaning. Meaning is seen as subjective; different individuals internalize the same message in varying forms. The article shows that even the resolute are not immune to peer pressure. The crying of Langston shows the emotional turmoil a virtuous individual undergoes when he does wrong. Hughes is showed as desiring to please his elders even if it means compromising his convictions. The article highlights the importance of choice that even amidst the societal pressure the decision is made by the individual.
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