Langston Hughes: Poems

Intimacy Through Point of View in "On the Road"

Langston Hughes’ “On the Road” takes place during the depression and chronicles a homeless black man’s search for a place to stay the night. This man, Sargeant, first attempts to stay at a parsonage, but is turned down by the Reverend. He then sees the church next to the parsonage and decides he will sleep inside of it. The door is locked and no one answers his knocks, so he pushes against the door and he is able to break the door open. As the door breaks open two cops arrive and try to pull him away from the door, but Sargeant grabs onto a stone pillar at the front of the church and refuses to let go. Gradually, the front of the church falls down, and then the whole thing falls onto the cops and onto Sargeant, who is knocked unconscious by the debris. While unconscious, Sargeant has a dream that he is talking to Christ and at the end of the dream, when Sargeant tries to get on a train, he wakes up and realizes that he is in jail. The intimacy of the second person point of view evokes from the reader a sympathy for Sargeant. This is done through the narrator’s use of language, the narrator’s omniscience, and the narrator’s seeming firsthand knowledge of being in a situation similar to Sargeant’s.

The narrator uses simple,...

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