Salvation (Langston Hughes)

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Saved From Innocence

In most people's lives, there comes a point in time where their perception changes abruptly; a single moment in their life when they come to a sudden realization. In Langston Hughes' "Salvation", contrary to all expectations, a young Hughes is not saved by Jesus, but is saved from his own innocence. "Salvation" is the story of a young boy who has an experience of revelation. While attending a church revival, he comes to the sudden realization that Jesus will not physically come save him. In the first three sentences of the essay, the speaker adopts a very childlike style. He makes use of simple words and keeps the sentences short, similar in style to that of an early aged teenager. But since the text is written in the past tense and the narrator mentions that he was "going on thirteen" (181), we know the speaker is now older. After reading a little further, we find that the style becomes more complex, with a more select choice of words and longer sentences. The contrast between simple and complex styles is present all through the rest of the essay, and creates a more personal atmosphere. Another particularity of "Salvation" is the fact that the story recounts Langston Hughes' own personal experiences as a young boy. This high degree of intimacy allows Hughes to supply the reader with some very concrete details and vivid descriptions. The beauty in Hughes' personal insights lies in their power to reach our senses. We can clearly picture the images of "old women with jet-black faces and braided hair" (182) and "old men with work-gnarled hands" (182) praying at the church, or hear the sound of "mighty wail of moans and voices" (182). And it is almost impossible not to feel the warmth contained in the "hot, crowded church" (181). In short, the technique used by Hughes is set to put the reader in the same ambiance the young boy is in, thus giving us a closer look at his innocence.

The innocence shown by the young boy at the beginning of the...
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