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Reaction - Salvation


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Reaction – “Salvation”

The nonfiction short essay “Salvation” written by Langston Hughes in 1940, presents a theme on the literal and often manipulated perception of children. Hughes narrates the essay as he recounts his disappointing attempt at salvation. Hughes aunt told him that when she was saved by Jesus she saw a light, and felt something happen within herself. As children will do, Hughes took her story literally and was heartbroken as he sat in front of the church and watched other children “saved” while he was not. He believed that Jesus must not want him because he did not see or feel anything. In the end, Hughes is forced to lie about accepting Jesus and in turn rejects the Christian faith all together. I related to Hughes story on many accounts. I am a mother of three young children who perceive everything in life literally, and as a young girl I was raised in a very religious environment. I could visualize and almost feel Hughes devastation as he sat at the front of the church crushed by the thoughts of God not wanting him. “Still I kept waiting to see Jesus” (Barnet, Cain, & Burto, 2011, pp. 351). One of the churches that my family attended for a short time during my childhood practiced speaking in tongs. I specifically remember feeling just like Hughes during a service when other children were speaking in unnatural languages perceived to be sent from God himself. I could not understand why I was not chosen to talk for God and intern was hurt and ashamed of myself. Hughes uses several rhetorical devices within this essay to help bring out the literal and often manipulated perception of children as the meaning and theme. The language within this essay is manipulated in a fashion to create a childish feel. While reading this essay one believes that Hughes is actually 12 again, as if a child was narrating the story. A reader can take themselves back to their own childhood memories and recall how they perceived stories told to them allowing many readers to relate to his own recount. My aunt told me that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! And Jesus came into your life! And God was with you from then on! She said you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul. I believed her (Barnet, Cain, & Burto, 2011, pp. 351).
Hughes statement, “I believed her” (Barnet, et al, 2011, pp. 351) is one of the most powerful statements in this story. Children believe everything they hear in the literal meaning. A most powerful example is Santa Claus. Children around the word believe that a jolly fat old man flies completely around the entire word in one night, stopping at every house to give a gift of joy to every child on earth. The perception of children should not be misunderstood, nor should it be manipulated. Hughes uses the literary devices of repetition to show the manipulation the children in the church received. Nine times throughout this 15 paragraph essay, the preacher says “Won’t you come? Won’t you come to Jesus?” (Barnet, et al, 2011, pp. 351). The children were pressured into accepting Jesus. They were manipulated into believing that it was a crime not to come to Jesus, that it was such a simple thing to do, and if they did not that very day it was a deliberate act against themselves, Jesus, and the church. Imagery is used to bring the reader virtually into the very room Hughes was recalling. He also uses imagery to show the manipulation the church used to alter the perception of the children. “The preacher preached a wonderful rhythmical sermon, all moans and shouts and lonely cries and dire pictures of hell” (Barnet, et al, 2011, pp. 351). The children were provided a rhythmical, soothing atmosphere to make them feel comfortable, but all the while they were presented with images of what could happen to them if they did not submit. people came and knelt around us and prayed, old women with jet-black faces …old men with work-gnarled hands. And the church sang a song about the lower lights are burning, some poor sinners to be saved. (Barnet, et al, 2011, pp. 351)
The children were trapped in the front of the church surrounded by scary old people praying and singing about their fate. The children were not provided the proper choice; they were not surrounded in a loving, caring, open environment free to voice their questions or opinions. The perception of their fate was manipulated causing them to submit to the church’s desires. Ironically the Bible stories of Jesus speak of a loving, caring, and bright faced man who placed children on his knee while speaking to them kindly. Jesus provided his people the choice to believe and follow; he did not scare them into submission. In conclusion, ironically Hughes show how although his childish perception of “salvation” was manipulated, he in the end no longer believed in Jesus. I couldn’t bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, and I hadn’t seen Jesus, and that now I didn’t believe there was a Jesus any more, since he didn’t come to help me” (Barnet, et al, 2011, pp. 352).
Ironically, the manipulation and pressure the church used to bring children to Jesus, turned Hughes away. It’s curious to wonder what could have happen with Hughes faith had his perception not been manipulated. Would he have been saved by grace, and become a significant member of God’s family?

Barnet, S., Cain, W. E., & Burto, W. (2011). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). Bloomington, IN: Longman.

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