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Young Expectations Every mind is it’s a world. Each person sees and understands it in their own way. Experiences, environment, and people whom one interacts with play a big role in one’s life and attitude towards life. In each of the two stories “Graduation” by Maya Angelou and “Salvation” by Maya Angelou a very young person has assumptions from a particular experience that differ roughly from what adults in both stories expect. Feelings such as excitement, anticipation, and anxiousness can be found in both stories. However, when each author concludes the outcomes are different.
In Graduation, for instance, Marguerite an African-American middle school studet, who was graduating top of her class, is very excited. Unfortunately Mr. Donley, a white guess speaker gives a rather discouraging speech, focusing on the success of black athletes and ignoring the academic potential of the graduating class. However, thanks to young Henry’s intervention, graduates rise up and recover from the sprit-crushing speech after singing the Negro National Anthem. Marguerite had been taught by her parents and the black community that graduation, regardless of what level, was a big transaction into adulthood. Oh it was important alright” she would say (5). The narrator describes how at the time of her graduation “[She] was the person of the moment. The birthday girl. The center” (6). Although it was not a high school graduation for the narrator, the ceremony was taken very seriously. Maya Angelou, attempts to project a feeling of excitement encouraged by the graduates’ parents and the community as well. “Some adults were excited too” (1). “Even the minister preached on graduation the Sunday before” (17).
Graduates were admired by the whole community for their academic success and, upon being respected, felt superior to younger non-graduating students. Kids would often be rewarded by their parents on such a significant date. Marguerite’s uncle and mom for instance gave her a Mickey Mouse watch, and people from the neighborhood would give her a nickel or even a dime and advise her to “Keep on moving o higher ground” (18). Marguerite had worked really hard to graduate at the top of the class, so this special occasion was far more meaningful for her than any other student.
Mr. Donleavy, an arrogant white guest at the graduation ceremony, insults the black community by mocking them of the limited opportunities for black people in the 1940’s especially in a racist society. He centers his attention in football and baseball players, who had graduated from that very same school. Knowingly or unknowingly ignores the student’s academic success. “The man’s dead words fell like bricks around the auditorium and too many settled in my belly…to my right and left the proud graduating class of 1940 had dropped their heads” (42). Every girl in my row had found something new to do with her handkerchief. Some folded the tiny squares into love knots, some into triangles, but most were wadding them, then pressing them flat on their yellow laps” (42). His tone depresses the graduation class and puts to shame everyone at the ceremony, making graduates lose interest in what was initially a very important date for them “Salvation in the other hand, narrated by young Langston takes place at church. Langston and many other young children were taken to be saved.
Langston’s aunt as well as the members of the church show great interest in “bringing the young lambs to the fold” (1) “My aunt spoke of it for days ahead” (1). “I heard a great many old people say the same thing, and it seemed to me they ought to know” (2). Hughes uses the mind of a young child, himself, to express a feeling of excitement in experiencing what his aunt describes as “seeing Jesus. ” Twelve year old Langston misunderstands the whole concept and interprets his aunt metaphor literally. Unable to “see” or “feel Jesus in [his] soul” (1), ashamed of himself and discouraged he then decides to lie and pretend to be saved.
Unlike “Graduation” where the outcome of the story is overcoming hurtful remarks and rising up after a brutal speech, Langston goes home and cries because he feels guilty and has lost fate in Jesus. Unlike Marguerite who understood Mr. Donleavy’s snobby speech, Hughes was too young to understand a certain concept; “seeing Jesus. ” Langston’s aunt stresses the idea of “[feeling] Jesus in your soul” (2) and probably causes such an idea to be taken factually by the young boy, misinterpreting what she really meant.
However in “Graduation”, the graduates after being ashamed in front of their parents and community, are led by Henry, marguerite’s fellow student, proudly sing the “Negro National Anthem”. Perhaps if Henry had not taken a stand to defend his ideology, many students would have lost complete interest in their education. It is possible that Marguerite’s “salvation” was in fact Henry’s attitude towards Donleavy’s speech. In “Salvation,” Langston’s aunt does not explain to the young child in a way he could understand, therefore, does not have a reason to believe in Jesus. [He] was really crying because [he] couldn’t bear to tell [his aunt] and that [he] had deceived everybody in the church, and that [he] hadn’t seen Jesus and that now [he] didn’t believe there was a Jesus since he didn’t come to help [him]”(15). Yet, the narrator also says “That night, for the last time in my life but one – for I was a big boy twelve years old -I cried, in bed, alone, and couldn’t stop”(15) which gives the reader an idea; he would later on in his life realize that he had as a child misunderstood the idea of “seeing Jesus. Although with a different set of expectations and outcomes, both Marguerite and young Langston portray a sense of innocence, and at some point discourage, towards adult’s viewpoints. The significance of Marguerite’s graduation is not similar to Langston’s salvation, yet overcoming a racist dream-crusher speech, can be of similar weight as the importance of being saved. Work cited Page Angelou, Maya “Graduation” Peterson and Brerenton 34-42 Hudgens Longston “Salvation” Peterson and Breenton 1139-41 Peterson, Linda and John Breverton: the Norton Reader. New York. Norton 2008. Print
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