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Salvation Compared to Shooting and Elephant Essay


In Salvation, Langston Hughes talks about himself as a young twelve year old boy who wanted salvation and who desperately wanted to see Jesus. However; he often found himself in a position where he felt disappointment. In Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell shares his experience as a colonial official who felt obligated to shoot a rogue elephant while he really did not want to. The difference between both stories is that in Shooting an Elephant the narrator explains that in his case, peer-pressure made his situation feel like an obligation; while in Salvation the narrator describes his situation more in a sense of obedience. However; in both stories the narrators have similarities as well. One example is that they deal with a situation of misapprehension. In Salvation, Hughes shows how he was too young to understand the concept of seeing Jesus. In Shooting an Elephant, Orwell explains how when he was holding the gun people misperceived it as if he was going to kill the elephant, while his true intentions were only to hold the gun for protection. Both stories share in common in that the characters deal with a guilty conscience. Hughes illustrates his feelings of not only how he lied to the church and his aunt, but also to God. In Shooting an Elephant, Orwell emphasizes the agony the elephant incites within him, making him feel sorrow. Lastly, both narrators shared that they were under immense peer-pressure from their peers. Salvation and Shooting an Elephant, are similar in that the narrators experience a case of misapprehension, peer-pressure, and a guilty conscience.

In Salvation, Hughes shares how his aunt explains to him what will happen when you get saved but he has perceived it in a different way. She explained: when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! And Jesus came into your life! And God was with you from then on! She said you could see and feel Jesus in your soul (179). Hughes misunderstood what she meant by seeing Jesus. He took it in a more literal and physical sense of actually seeing Jesus while his aunt meant it spiritually. While the young lambs were going up to the altar to become saved; the narrator illustrates how he still waited to see Jesus: And I kept waiting to see Jesus, waiting, waiting- but he didnt come (180). Also in Shooting an Elephant Orwell falls into a similar situation where he was misunderstood. The character was holding his rifle just for protection, but the crowd took it differently. Orwell explained: They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the elephant (287). His true intention was not to shoot the elephant: I had no intention of shooting the elephant- I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary (287).

Langston Hughes and George Orwell share in common that they both fell under the influence of peer-pressure. In Salvation Hughes emphasizes on how the Minister, his aunt and even the congregation was surrounding him: my aunt came and knelt at my knees and cried, while prayers and songs swirled all around me in the little church. The whole congregation for me alone, in a mighty wail of moans and voices (180). Then the minister and aunt put more pressure on him by making him the center of attention. The minister was saying directly to him Why dont you come? My dear child, why dont you come to Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you. Why dont you come? (180). His aunt adds on with tears: Langston, why dont you come? Why dont you come and be saved? Oh, Lamb of God! Why dont you come? (180). In Shooting an Elephant Orwell illustrates the peer-pressure put on him by explaining the number of people following him. He first starts by saying: As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses and followed me (287). The crowd misunderstood him when he was holding the gun. It was to protect him and not to kill the elephant. The narrator explains his feelings as: It made me vaguely uneasy (287). And he goes on saying it was unnerving to have a crowd following you (287). He felt pressured with everyone watching him.

In having to make a choice out of peer-pressure, the narrators felt guilty. In Salvation Hughes made a choice to go up to the altar to get everyone off his back because he began to feel ashamed. The guilt brought him to tears. The narrator explained: I cried, in bed alone, and couldnt stop. I buried my head under the quilts (181). His aunt misunderstood his cry and thought it was because of the Holy Ghost who came to his life, while it really was not the case. The narrator adds on: But I was really crying because I couldnt bear to tell her that I lied, that I deceived everybody in the church, and I hadnt seen Jesus, and that now I didnt believe there was a Jesus any more, since he didnt come to me (181). In Shooting an Elephant the way he explains his guilt from the choice he made in killing the elephant was by explaining in detail of how he did it and illustrating the agony the elephant was in. When he had shot the rifle he said: He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralyzed him without knocking him down (290). Five seconds later he fell to his knees. The narrator goes on: His mouth sobered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him (290). He goes on explaining the pain the elephant was showing, but then he explains his guilt. He states: In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away (291).

In conclusion, although the plots of both stories were radically different; the themes encountered within these stories were remarkably similar. Both stories deal with the persuasive influence of peer pressure and the feelings of anxiety and guilt that follow when the person attempts to make a decision. Although the characters were different in age and temperament and in the situations they encountered; their experience was profoundly shared. The agony and the feelings of guilty conscience pervaded both of them. Lastly, both stories highlight the dissonance between intentions and behavior. The behaviors of both individuals did not demonstrate their true desires. Both characters were eventually thrown into despair when their actions were not in accordance with their thoughts; indirectly suggesting that ones actions should be true to the persons intent, otherwise feelings of sorrow will ensue.

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