Backfire in Langston Hughes “Salvation”

8 August 2016

There are three types of irony. Verbal, situational, and dramatic irony. The two types of irony used in Langston Hughes’ first person narrative “Salvation” is verbal and situational irony. Verbal irony is the use of words to mean something different from what a person actually says. Situational irony occurs when the exact opposite of what is meant to happen, happens. Theses two types irony are introduced by Hughes’ Auntie Reed who begins to take Hughes to church for several weeks, and then talks about taking Hughes to the children revival.

This sets up the beginning of Hughes traumatic experience with religion. The narrative begins with, “I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved. ” This beginning sentence contains the start of irony, because this sentence contradicts itself by saying that he was saved, but not really saved. This makes the reader to really question the rest of the story, because the narrative is called “Salvation”. Hughes’ Aunt also establishes an expectation of him to get saved and to see Jesus, which is a very important sentence for the rest of the piece. “My aunt told me…

Backfire in Langston Hughes “Salvation” Essay Example

from then on! ” Hughes takes this statement very literal, in which he believes that Jesus will come down, and save him from sin in a physical manner. He does not know any better, so he listens to the elders about their experience when they saw Jesus, and take those experiences literally too. This misunderstanding Hughes has about Jesus will create the base of the irony later in the narrative. The third, fourth, eighth, ninth, and tenth paragraph of “Salvation” is set around the idea of guilt in which the preacher sings songs that will emotionally sway the children to be “saved”.

“One little lamb was left out in the cold. ” This forces the children to think of being left behind, and at this age, they do not like to be alone, or to be stranded with no one, and so they go to the preacher so they are not left behind. Another factor that forced the children to “go to Jesus” was that the elders kneeled down before the group of children that were still waiting to “see Jesus”, and they prayed and sang songs of the poor sinners to be saved.

Other than the preacher, and elders singing songs, he calls Hughes’ by his name. “Langston, why… don’t you come? ” Here, Hughes is called by his first name by the minister, which causes pressure on Hughes to submit. “‘God damn! I’m tired o’ sitting here. Let’s get up and be saved. ’ So he got up and was saved. ” This was said by Westley who was with Hughes as they waited to see Jesus, but he did not want to stay there anymore. So instead of having a spiritual epiphany, he gets up, goes to the altar, and lies about seeing Jesus.

This use of irony reinforces Hughes’ desire to see Jesus, because even though the room was hot due to the people surrounding him with prayer and songs, nothing was going to stop him from seeing Jesus. He was waiting to see Jesus in a human figure, to see the light, and to feel something inside of him, though the irony is that he will never see Jesus in a human figure, or see a light. He might feel something inside, but that might be the guilt the church forced on him. “Now it was really getting late… and be saved.

” This is where irony becomes a key component to understand the main idea. This short paragraph shows a major shift in tone, because Hughes was waiting for Jesus though he never comes, and he thinks about what Westley has done and realizes that he lied in church, yet God did not punish him. So instead of waiting for a religious salvation, he no longer believes in God or Jesus, and he does not believe in God as an all powerful being, because, “God had not struck Westley dead for taking his name in vain or for lying in the temple”.

“That night… since he didn’t come to help me. ” This shows the result of the religious salvation in which Hughes does not believe in God or Jesus, and has scarred Hughes for the rest of his life. He is scarred, because Jesus did not come to save him, which now he no longer believes in him. This paragraph also shows how ironic the ritual was, because all the young lambs were to be saved, have a stronger faith in God, and be accepted by the elders, but instead, Hughes lost his faith in God.

The ritual backfired, because instead of strengthening Hughes’ faith with God, he no longer believes in him due to the procedures taken by the church, and the elders. This traumatic experience begins with Auntie Reed setting an expectation on Hughes, and ends with Hughes letting down his Auntie Reed, and his lost of faith. The verbal irony occurs when he listens to the elders about their religious experience, and expects that to happen to him, though it does not. The situational irony is shown by the ritual, because its purpose was to save the children from sins, and not have the children lose faith in God.

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