Who is the narrator of "Salvation"?

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The narrator of “Salvation” is the author, Langston Hughes, who, as a grown man, reflects on an incident that happened when he was thirteen. Using first person, he immediately connects the event to his Auntie Reed and her desire that he be brought to Christ and have Jesus come into his life.

Hughes presents himself in the time both before and after the night that he was supposed to be saved, as a young lamb brought into the fold. The experience of "salvation" is transformative, but not in the way he expected. Both his aunt’s eager anticipation and his trust in her convinced him that a miraculous transformation would happen: “I believed her.” He narrates how he and another boy, Westley, went through the experience together. Westley impatiently went forward first to get saved, but Langston waited for true revelation: “And I kept waiting serenely for Jesus, waiting, waiting—but he didn't come.”

He decides to go through the motions anyway, out of shame and to “save further trouble.” Later that night, at home, he finds himself crying—because “I couldn't bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, that I hadn't seen Jesus, and that now I didn't believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn't come to help me.”

In these respects, while Hughes presents a story he wants us to believe is true, its likelihood depends on his admitting that he lied about something important and lost any nascent faith he had—and thus casts doubt on his reliability as a narrator.

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The narrator of "Salvation" is the author, Langston Hughes.  "Salvation" is a memoir that chronicles Hughes's experiences with faith and his inability to be saved at church.  It is a coming of age/rite of passage story and was originally published in his autobiography, The Big Sea.  Hughes recounts a time when he lied that he was saved because he was too embarrassed to admit that he didn't see Jesus's light like his Aunt Reed said he would in the church revival meeting he attended.  Hughes thought that he would literally see a real light signifying Jesus was coming into his life.  When he didn't actually see a light, he said that he did to please his Aunt Reed and the other parishioners.  It was a time in Hughes's life that was significant because it framed his religious beliefs and made him feel unworthy of receiving Jesus's love.  

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