What is the basic plot of Langston Hughes' short story, "Salvation"? 

What is the basic plot of Langston Hughes' short story, "Salvation"?


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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story is a memoir by the author about a particular incident in his life when he was just about to turn thirteen, which made a huge impression on him.

The narrator had attended a revival service at his fanatically religious aunt Reed's church. Before the end of the revival, time was set aside to save the souls of young churchgoers. His aunt had previously told him that he would see Jesus and he would be saved. When the request was made that the youngsters should come forward for redemption, he waited for Jesus to come.

Many of the youngsters got up and were saved, to great praise from the congregation. The narrator, though, was waiting to see Jesus appear for he believed that that would be a sign for him to get up. With him on the bench was another boy, Westley - they were the last of the young ones left. The preacher and others made passionate appeals to the two to get up and be saved. Westley later relented and the narrator was alone on the bench.

He was convinced that he would see Jesus and that he would be saved, but nothing happened and he stayed seated. It was getting late and the cries for him to come to the Lord grew ever more impassioned. Even his aunt came to sit next to him for encouragement. The preacher, who had by know learned his name, begged him directly.

The speaker eventually relented to avoid any more trouble, even though he had not yet seen Jesus. He did what he believed Westley did, he lied. He was saved, much to the joy and relief of all concerned.

Later that night the speaker cried copiously when in bed. His aunt believed that he was tearful because he had found Christ. The speaker confesses, though, that he was crying because he had lied. He had not seen Christ and only got up because of all the pressure and that he did not believe in Jesus anymore since he did not come to help him.

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