On the Road by Langston Hughes Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sargeant, an African American vagrant, seeking food and shelter, arrives in Reno, Nevada, in late 1934 in the midst of a dangerous snowstorm. It is bitterly cold but his overwhelming concern is to find food. To him, the snow falls almost undetected; he is too hungry, sleepy, and tired to notice the storm. The first potential refuge that Sargeant encounters is a parsonage. Its occupant, the Reverend Mr. Dorset, opens the parsonage door and sees Sargeant as “a human piece of night with snow on his face” standing on his porch. Before Sargeant can open his mouth, Dorset directs him to the local relief shelter, emphatically stating that he cannot stay at the parsonage.

The parsonage door shuts in Sargeant’s face before he can say that he has already been to the relief shelter and that it is not open to his kind. Sargeant recalls his vast experience with similar relief shelters, which are usually out of beds, out of food, and out of bounds for him.

As Sargeant stands outside the forbidden parsonage, he connects it to the large church next door—one with two large doors. Dazed by hunger and cold, he stands before the church steps observing its high, arched doors, with pillars on each side, balanced higher up by a window displaying a crucifix with a stone Christ hanging from it. As he gazes at the crucifix, Sargeant notices the snow again and feels the cold and hunger more than before. He climbs the church steps and knocks at the doors, but no...

(The entire section is 595 words.)