Nick Park 11/15/03 English 3/Intro to Lit On the Road Langston Hughes is a writer who had a very unique method of putting his thoughts into words. Undoubtedly, Hughes must have experienced a large amount of racism aimed at him during his time. On the Road is a story of an African-American man who tries to find a little humanity in the world, with Langston Hughes' voice one amongst the many others crying for freedom and equality. Sargeant, the protagonist, is first introduced while looking for shelter.
The first two sentences says that "he was not interested in snow... never even noticed the snow" (Hughes, 1). Sargeant is obviously tired and so focused on finding some shelter that he does not notice what is making him uncomfortable in the first place. He goes up to a door, a reverend's home, and knocks on the door. Reverend Dorset answers the door-and promptly tells Sargeant off and slams the door in his face. The story briefly switches to Dorset's point of view, and Sargeant is described as "a human piece of night with snow on his face" (Hughes, 1). This suggests that Dorset views African-Americans as nothing more than objects.
His very name, "Door Set", seems to suggest that his home is closed to all except for those that he approves of. Sargeant is told by the reverend to go to the homeless shelter, but closes the door before Sargeant has a chance to tell the reverend that the shelters were always closed, out of food and beds. Hughes most likely uses a reverend as the person to turn away Sargeant to symbolize the hypocrisy of middle class and upper class people, most notably the Christians who were supposed to love everyone. Sargeant's name is also significant in that it can represent the Christian soldier. Hughes has an interesting message in the name Sargeant; if Sargeant is a symbol of the Christian soldier, Hughes seems to be commenting that the path of a true Christian is a hard one.
Christians were martyred and killed throughout history. Persecution awaits them at every turn, and using an African-American to represent the Christian soldier is Hughes' way of representing the persecution and hate aimed at his ethnicity. Sargeant turns to see a church-he realizes that a church is of course going to be next to a parsonage. Hughes gives a very interesting description of the church at this point; the imagery arising from his description of the church seems to suggest that the church is somewhat majestic, with high, rising doors and soaring columns. However, he takes the time to note that there are two doors to the church. He also ends the description of the church by stating that it looked "solid and stony pale in the snow" (Hughes, 2).
The two doors most likely represent a doubling of opportunity, two times the hope as compared to the one door that was slammed in his face (Burke, line 14). The church, although pleasing to the eye, is lifeless and cold to those who look upon it, suggesting that Hughes feels as though not even Christ can help the him and the African-American ethnicity. Sargeant then proceeds to break down the door to the church, but unfortunately he takes the entire church with him. According to Burke, any progress that Sargeant makes seems to have a perfect timing for something to come and stop him.
The police come; two white cops come running out to arrest him. These two white policemen symbolize despair; while the doors represent twice the opportunity and hope for Sargeant, the two white cops represent twice the despair and trouble. Hughes says here that for every hope and good fortune that the African-Americans had, there always seemed to be a directly proportionate amount of disappointment and despair as well. Sargeant eventually pulls away from the door and heads down the street. He notices after a while that Christ himself came off the cross and is walking beside him. Christ remarks "you had to pull the church down to get me off the cross" (Hughes, 3).
This remark seems to indicate that the church was so corrupted that in order for Him to be seen and felt, the entire church, His home, had to be destroyed. He further reinforces this idea by saying that He had been nailed to the cross for two thousand years, and that He was just now able to come down. Hughes comments here that the entire human race kept Christ on the cross; it is even possible that Hughes views the world as his own race and everyone else because it seems that the entire world is against the African-Americans. But even now, as Christ Himself had come down from the cross, the only thing that He is concerned about is getting to Kansas City. Sargeant wakes up to find himself in a jail, and he mentions that he never saw Christ anymore.
Hughes states here that the situation is so hopeless that not even Christ could help him and his people. The Christian soldier is left to fend for himself and carry on the fight, saying that Hughes feels that Christ has abandoned his own men. The story ends with Sargeant waking up in jail, then threatening to break down the door to the jail. However, this time he realizes that the bruised fingers on his hand belong to him, not the door, and that the fingers were his, not the club used to beat his hands. He realizes that he does have something of his own after all, that he really does belong to himself. The significance here would be that since the African-Americans were unfortunately used as slaves, they did not really own anything.
Whatever they did own was usually confiscated, most notably their rights as humans. Sargeant realizes that he has his fingers and that no one can take away the right to do whatever he pleases with them. He vows to break down the cell doors and exact his revenge. This could possibly be a message from Hughes to the public; that the African-Americans have rights of their own and that one day there will be a day of reckoning, where everyone will atone for they have done wrong. Hughes uses a very vivid imagery to portray his emotions and feelings through Sargeant. Hughes talks about his life during the period of the racism in the fifties, of how his people were abused and hated.
The situation must have really seemed quite hopeless, as the comment of Christ abandoning Sargeant reinforces. But at the very end, Hughes sends out one last message of defiance to the world-that African-Americans are their own people as well. It is a story most likely designed to bolster the African-Americans' emotions, to keep their hopes up. Hughes tries to tell his people that the end is near, to keep their pride and faith in themselves. He uses an African-American to represent the Christian soldier-this Christian soldier is God's will, God's instrument of justice upon the people. The story is apocalyptic in that through Sargeant's last words, Hughes is saying that the time for atonement and balancing of scales will come.
This is his statement to the world; that one day, African-Americans will be equal to all others, and one day everyone will be held accountable for their actions. Burke, Dennis V. "Freedom, Christ, and a Negro: A People's Search for Self". Diss. Florence-Darlington Technical College.