Backfire in Langston Hughes "Salvation"

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There are three types of irony. Verbal, situational, and dramatic irony. The two types of irony used in Langston Hughes’ first person narrative “Salvation” is verbal and situational irony. Verbal irony is the use of words to mean something different from what a person actually says. Situational irony occurs when the exact opposite of what is meant to happen, happens. Theses two types irony are introduced by Hughes’ Auntie Reed who begins to take Hughes to church for several weeks, and then talks about taking Hughes to the children revival. This sets up the beginning of Hughes traumatic experience with religion.

The narrative begins with, “I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved.” This beginning sentence contains the start of irony, because this sentence contradicts itself by saying that he was saved, but not really saved. This makes the reader to really question the rest of the story, because the narrative is called “Salvation”. Hughes’ Aunt also establishes an expectation of him to get saved and to see Jesus, which is a very important sentence for the rest of the piece. “My aunt told me...from then on!” Hughes takes this statement very literal, in which he believes that Jesus will come down, and save him from sin in a physical manner. He does not know any better, so he listens to the elders about their experience when they saw Jesus, and take those experiences literally too. This misunderstanding Hughes has about Jesus will create the base of the irony later in the narrative. The third, fourth, eighth, ninth, and tenth paragraph of “Salvation” is set around the idea of guilt in which the preacher sings songs that will emotionally sway the children to be “saved”. “One little lamb was left out in the cold.” This forces the children to think of being left behind, and at this age, they do not like to be alone, or to be stranded with no one, and so they go to the preacher so they are not left behind. Another factor that...