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In his book and short story titled ''Salvation '' Langston Hughes who is the writer talks
about his own decisions at a church that basically reflect his natural behavior towards his religion; Christianity. He describes the concept of spiritual salvation and explores the conflict between a realist and the members of the church who strongly believe in God through Jesus, with the end result his faith being destroyed. The story considers the theme of faith and its fragility and is based on his real time experience and the conflict between his beliefs in reality and that of the other people in the church who are so spiritual that they claim to see Jesus whom he doesn't see himself. During a week-long spiritual revival at Langston's Auntie Reed's local church, Langston , who is just thirteen years old , finds the salvation of the Lord but not in the fashion that he has been expecting all along. This experience he gets at church after having gone there with his aunt is a challenging one but critical in changing his believe about Jesus and Christianity as a religion. This helps him learn a lesson at the age of twelve about various issues in his life such as salvation, being saved, and religion which are all important aspects to fellow Christians including his aunt.
The story is also symbolic in that the case of Langston Hughes reflects and is a symbol of many other people who are just like him. They blindly believe in something that is possibly not there but because they were taught by their parents and society to believe and do things in a certain prescribed way, they do so yet they believe differently and view things from a different perspective. It is unfortunate, but sometimes realistic. Langston Hughes case is therefore a symbol of so many others, a classical case of other individuals whose beliefs are contrary to what they were taught and what they believe in. The basic lesson of the story therefore is that as a result of his believe, Langston Hughes was damaged emotionally as well as spiritually by the bandwagon mentality of a congregation that valued an "everyone on board" instead of a sincere and honest way as Langston had initially tried to attempt his own salvation.
At the same time, in the short story 'Salvation' by Langston Hughes dramatic Irony has been used basically because this is what keeps life interesting. In Langston Hughes' Salvation, it was a much different kind of interesting. Hughes uses irony and biblical references to show that no matter how bad a person is in need, it may not always get it solved. By practically drowning the reader in such ironic biblical terms, Salvation also establishes the precedent that life can throw a curveball even when it is unexpected. As he undergoes the tribulations to be saved by Jesus, he slowly becomes more and more distant from him. The twelve year old boy sat in the "hot, crowded church" as readers were reminded of Hell.
At the same time, in the church enters Westley and Langston, as irony shines through like the bright sun through white clouds. The flames of lying practically burned on the two's heads, before they got "saved" for all the wrong reasons. Ironically, such an occurrence happened in the holiest of places. Throughout the story, elderly women with "jet-black faces" and men with "work-gnarled hands" watch the moves of each of the children. The aduldts who are supposed to show the young ones the right way, like Langston and Wesley on the spot, as they were "surrounded by sisters and deacons praying." These supposedly wise older men and women only acted as a catalyst to Langston's lying leading him astray.
Moreover, in this story, Langston Hughes creates a past experience into a true to life drama of guilt, deception, and grief, in "Salvation" against the popular belief of an enjoyable life awaiting those who are believers. He reveals the story of how he was forced into receiving Christ by his peers, relatives, and preacher. Helpless and alone, he struggles against overwhelming odds. After a long-winded sermon the young children who sit amongst the gathering in the church are requested to come forward and accept Jesus. For him, instead of moving forward, he waits for the Lord to come to him. When Langston's friend Westley went forward, the pressure increased twofold, first he was subjected to intense persuasion of the church, but he also realized that if Westley did it, it might be admissible. The author gains the respect of the reader by telling the story from his side of understanding and own voice, he also tells the story truthfully and as accurately as he can remember it.
At the same time, the highly vivid descriptions of the church, the preacher, assisted by his aunt, are able to ensure that the momentum of the story rolling. He creates the true drama of facing an opposing force without any outside help. This creates a light moment for the reader despite the tense situation. Although Hughes believed in the reality of Jesus, he was deceivingly forced into doing something completely against his will. He fooled everyone by making an insincere decision. He can no longer keep hiding his emotions and feelings and therefore he ends up joining the rest of the children thinking that during the ordeal and he knew that he was alone. As a result, his final decision was based on what was sufficient for the congregation, not himself.
On the other hand, Judith Ortiz Cofer's "American History" is written during the time of Kennedy's presidency and takes place in a small, gray, old town called Paterson, New Jersey. The story's fourteen-year-old protagonist girl, Elena, is a Puerto Rican immigrant who lives with her family in Paterson, New Jersey in what she refers to as a Puerto Rican tenement building called El Building. It is an old, rundown apartment building on a busy city corner. Elena has been nicknamed Skinny Bones by her friends due to her bodily appearance. She is a teenage Puerto Rican girl who is struggling to adapt to life in a multifamily apartment building in Paterson, New Jersey. As a loner, Skinny Bones is attracted to marginalized individuals like herself. She finds her soul mate in Eugene, a shy teenager who has recently come from South Georgia. Because of his marked southern accent he is soon dubbed "the Hick," and he becomes the school's newest object of ridicule, joining Skinny Bones.
Elena's narrative then describes a normal day when her class in the neighborhood school, public school 13 where Eugene and the narrator attended were forced to move outside despite their knowledge, the students do not know it yet, and President John F. Kennedy has just been shot. Shortly after they are sent outside, Mr. DePalma, a gay teacher and the school's disciplinarian avails him to disclose the sad news that President Kenny, their president was shot and is now dead. Consequently, the school is dismissed and the students are sent home early, they are delighted especially Elena because she feels constantly humiliated at school, where her peers call her "Skinny Bones."
According to the author, Elena and Eugene do not share any classes; Eugene is doing honors classes. Although Elena gets straight A's but can not be given a chance to join the advanced classes where Eugene schools for the simple reason that English is not her first language. Elena is eager to talk to Eugene, so she nonetheless gathers up all her courage, catches up with him as they walk home getting a good chance to start a conversation. This makes Elena feel closer to Eugene. She has not told him that she watches him from her bedroom window, though.
The story, shows a number of themes are evident as the author explains the change of events and their suitability to every individual, a fact that changes as per every individual. In some instances, the occurrence of some events causes agony and distress to some people while the same is a source of joy and happiness to others. The theme of love or romance takes centre stage and comes out evidently in this story, according to Elena, the best policy in life is to listen to those you love when you can and give them the best at every instance because a time may come when such a time to tell them or even show them your love for them may not be there.
The story also depicts the theme of contrast, considering the fact that it narrated at the time when President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Despite this tragic event, Elena is focused on Eugene, her new neighbor and the object of her new source of happiness. This shows a sharp contrast in the sense that an unfortunate event happens in the assassination of the president, an event that calls for mourning yet Elena is happy to have met Eugene. In addition, when Depalma comes outside to tell the students the shocking news that President Kenny had been shot and is now dead, some of the students respond with muffled laughter upon seeing DePalma shed some tears. Similarly, this again shows contrast because this is an event that should attract pain and anger yet the students are laughing after being told the news.
However, when Elena visits Eugene that evening, she experiences her own personal tragedy in the form of prejudice. This is a similarity in terms of the events that are occurring simultaneously. In this regard, the country is engulfed in tragedy after the president is assassinated while Elena is similarly facing prejudicial tragedy.
At the same time, the theme of racism is evident in this story, Elena's family being Puerto Rican immigrants live in a small, gray, old town called Paterson, New Jersey in what she calls a Puerto Rican tenement building meaning that this is a place reserved for such people like her. This shows that there are places meant for some people and others meant for another class of people. Being immigrants, Elena's family can only afford to stay in this old building in a old town.. This shows that since Eugene's family was not an immigrant family, if anything was to happen, Elena was to suffer because she couldn't compare herself to Eugene as he came from a different race. Moreover, when Elena visits Eugene at their home to study together, his mother refuses her from seeing him saying that he has no time for friends and that he is too smart and doesn't need help mockingly referring to the place Elena and her family stay
In addition, Elena and Eugene do not share any classes because Eugene is taking all honors classes as a result of his race and place in the society. Although Elena gets straight A's, she is not allowed to enroll in these advanced classes because she does not speak English as the first language, this shows first degree racism.