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Thesis Statement On Salvation By Langston Hughes

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After reading the short story “Salvation” by Langston Hughes and an excerpt from Black Boy by Richard Wright, it is apparent to the reader that both stories reflect how young African American males perceive church. Both experiences in church talk about how the idea of God/ faith is imposed upon young Hughes and Wright by loved ones as well as society. However, each character undergoes the internal conflict of whether or not to conform. The validity of the central idea, individual versus society, is revealed through both character’s choices to either be the pariah within their community or fall under peer pressure in order to attain false acceptance. In the short story “Salvation”, young Langston is introduced to the idea of God’s…show more content…

“… I was really crying because I couldn’t bear tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, that I hadn’t seen Jesus, and that now I didn’t believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn’t come to help me.” This quote aids the explanation as to why Hughes lied; He lied in order to keep his community satisfied and evade the title of “sinner with no savior”. Richard Wright’s story Black Boy talks about why young Richard has a vast disbelief in God. “Before I had been made to go to church, I had been given God’s existence a sort of tacit assent, but after having seen His creatures serve Him at first hand, I had had my doubts. My faith, such as it was, was welded to the common realities of life, anchored in the sensations of my body and in what my mind could grasp, and nothing could ever shake this faith, and surely not my fear of an invisible power.” This quote states that Richard is forced to go to church (which we find out later on is due to his grandmother’s persistence) and could care less to be there because his view of faith had to do with the world around him as he perceives it, not because someone told him higher being’s existence controlled what will happen. Richard’s grandmother however was persistent in instilling the belief of God in Richard so she would constantly warn him of his words of blasphemy. Richard was tired of hearing the same

The short story "Salvation" by Langston Hughes is a condemnation of religious hypocrisy. In this story, a young boy is taken to a revival meeting. In this type of charismatic Christianity described in the story, as people prayed, it was expected that Jesus would appear to them, bathed in light, and they would know themselves to be saved and publicly acknowledge it. The 12-year old narrator does not have any particular transcendent experience but pretends to be saved in response to intense social pressure. When he returns home, he cries bitterly for two reasons, the first being that Jesus did not appear to save him and the second his own hypocrisy.

This work can be read as an anti-religious one, arguing against the pressures of social conformity that force people to become hypocrites. For people who believe in religious freedom, it appears unfair to force children to publicly proclaim conversion, rather than to present religious choices to them and let them choose freely without external pressures. The story also appears to condemn Christianity as hypocritical and coercive, and "salvation" as a fake display.

On a more profound level, one could say that this is a deeply spiritual story in which the young narrator, in his tears, and his rejection of religion as external display, in fact is saved, going through what Saint John of the Cross calls the "dark night of the soul", and learning a profound lesson about the difference between outward show and symbols and inner truth.