Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Narrated in the third person, “On the Road” first appeared in Esquire in 1935. Technically sound and smoothly organized, “On the Road” is a classic in the canon of Hughes. The chief stylistic obstacle Hughes confronted was melding the story’s realism with the supernatural elements introduced when the figure of Christ becomes animate. It is accomplished with a deft touch. One believes that Sargeant is a man of great inner strength who becomes capable of acting on a level beyond simple accommodation. His development as a man to be reckoned with sets the stage for his surreal meeting with Christ.

The more Sargeant is denied the basic necessities the more aggressive he becomes. When he is clubbed, he moves into a state of dreaming. When Christ appears to him, he treats him as an equal, and bids him a fond farewell as he has to go to Kansas City. Clearly the symbolic element here is in reference to being one’s brother’s keeper. Other examples of symbolism include juxtaposing the white snow everywhere against the authority of the brutal white police officers, and contrasting the unyielding material of the church doors against the true spirit of Christian brotherhood and sisterhood.

On the Road Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Berry, Faith. Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem. New York: Wings Books, 1995.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Langston Hughes. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Chinitz, David. “Rejuvenation Through Joy: Langston Hughes, Primitivism, and Jazz.” American Literary History 9 (Spring, 1997): 60-78.

Cooper, Floyd. Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes. New York: Philomel Books, 1994.

Harper, Donna Sullivan. Not So Simple: The “Simple” Stories by Langston Hughes. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995.

Haskins, James. Always Movin’ On: The Life of Langston Hughes. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1993.

Hokanson, Robert O’Brien. “Jazzing It Up: The Be-bop Modernism of Langston Hughes.” Mosaic 31 (December, 1998): 61-82.

Leach, Laurie F. Langston Hughes: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Mullen, Edward J., ed. Critical Essays on Langston Hughes. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986.

Ostrum, Hans A. A Langston Hughes Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes. 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Tracy, Steven C., ed. A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.