Why does Hughes expect salvation at the revival meeting?

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Langston Hughes, in his essay "Salvation ," describes a particular meeting that took place at his Auntie's church just before he turned thirteen. The intended audience for this meeting was children specifically, but there had been other meetings going on for several weeks prior, during which even some...

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"very hardened sinners" had been brought into the church's fold. As such, the church had already demonstrably, as far as the twelve-year-old Hughes was concerned, saved a number of people over that period. When his aunt told him that the latest meeting was intended to bring children, or "young lambs," to the church, it was understood by Hughes that he took, like those who had gone before him, was about to be saved.

He was also inspired by the colorful descriptions of salvation with which he had been furnished by his aunt. Auntie Reed had described how those who were saved saw a great light, and then saw, heard, and felt Jesus in their souls. Hughes has no reason to disbelieve his aunt and is young enough that these descriptions seem compelling to him. She is a person he trusts. As such, of course he expects to attend the meeting aimed at saving him and be, appropriately, saved.

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Simply put, Hughes expects to be saved at the revival meeting because the community surrounding him says that he should be. In the first paragraph, Hughes says, "My aunt spoke of it for days ahead," suggesting that Hughes already felt anticipation related to the meeting. He says, in the next paragraph, that he believed her when she described a salvation experience, and he also says, "I had heard a great many old people say the same thing and it seemed to me they ought to know. So I sat there calmly in the hot, crowded church, waiting for Jesus to come to me." Again, this reliance on the people, specifically authority figures, around him is what dictates Hughes's beliefs about salvation.

The meeting itself is what puts the most pressure on Hughes and the other children in the church. After the preacher preaches a sermon, "he held out his arms to all us young sinners there on the mourners' bench. And the little girls cried. And some of them jumped up and went to Jesus right away. But most of us just sat there." As the meeting continues, more children get up, until just Hughes and another boy, Westley, remain. Instead of depicting a genuine religious experience, we see the essay narrate Hughes's hypocritical act to mollify the church crowd. On a larger scale, this calls into question all cultural confessions of faith.

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Hughes expects to be saved at the revival meeting because of what others say and do before the meeting, and what happens at the meeting itself.

Before Hughes goes to the meeting, the revival has been going on for days, and those who have attended are very excited, building general anticipation. Langston's Auntie Reed has been talking about the meeting. She specifically tells him what will happen at the meeting--that he'll see a light, and feel the presence of God. She is so specific, and so confident, that Hughes believes this is a certainty (not just something that might happen). Other people have told similar stories.

Once Hughes is at the meeting, the expectation and pressure to be saved build. All the other children go up to the altar, and some of the girls cry due to the intense emotions they feel. Since the other children are apparently being saved, it is reasonable for Hughes to expect to be saved too.

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