Imagery And Irony In Langston Hughes's 'Salvation'

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In “Salvation,” Langston Hughes presents his momentous coming-of-age story as a dark and saddening ending to his childhood that provides the reader with understanding of the loss of innocence; and faith he faced and how it impacted who he came to be. Hughes makes a strong implication that children become less and less innocent over time. Hughes himself proves that through the tone of his entire essay. It begins with a light toned; yet still ironic introduction, but ends with a dark, depressing final line. Hughes supplies his reader with multiple literary devices such as imagery, flashbacks, and irony to present this comparison of his younger self and his older self.
In Hughes’s short essay, which he ironically titles “Salvation,” he tells the reader about one of his most significant childhood memories. Hughes provides background about a huge revival at his aunt’s church. He flashes forward to the day where he was supposed to be called upon by Jesus and greeted by a bright light his aunt repeatedly tells him about. Hughes recalls that he sat on the mourners’ bench right in the front row with the rest of the unsaved children. As the preacher continued to speak of the presence of Jesus, some of Hughes’s peers begin to rush towards the preacher—wailing and crying. While the rest of the children, including
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The images of the church with “[a] great many old people . . . with jet-black faces and . . . work-gnarled hands,” depicts the pressure that the young Hughes was under (183). Having this many figures before him made him feel pressured to later lie so that he could pretend to be “saved.” The “jet-black faces” and “work-gnarled hands” are almost in the reader’s face, adding to the effects that Hughes was feeling, especially as a young child (183). Not to mention that “all the young people had gone to the alter and were saved” and left Hughes behind, all alone in the mourners bench
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