The short, staccato sentences at the beginning of Langston Hughes’s “Salvation” emphasize the strangeness of the claim he is making. Each sentence makes a single, simple point, leaving the detailed exposition for the long sentences that follow. The polysyndeton in the second paragraph stresses the number of extraordinary events that the speaker has been promised, increasing the sense of excitement. The long sentence at the beginning of the third paragraph has a similar effect, as well as echoing the cadences of the preacher’s eloquent address. We also hear the effect of his voice in the repeated rhetorical questions, exhorting the children to come to Jesus.
After all the eloquence and description, the fifth paragraph is a starkly simple sentence of seven words:
Still I kept waiting to see Jesus.
This contrast reflects the contrast between rhetoric and reality in the church. The speaker has been told in various ways the feelings of rapture he will experience when he sees Jesus, but he has not seen Jesus.
The same pattern of anticipation and bathos is repeated, with a series of long sesquipedalian sentences full of detail culminating in a short statement. Four monosyllables are sufficiently momentous to require a paragraph on their own.
So I got up.
The importance of this gesture is confirmed by the “sea of shouting” which follows it. After this, there are no more of the simple, staccato sentences as the action falls, just as the speaker falls from being an honest child to being a liar—a transformation that required a church, preacher, and congregation to put into effect.