Reaction on Salvation and Who Will Light the Incense When Mother’s Gone

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SALVATION by Langston Hughes

Hughes was narrating his story in a straightforward manner. There are no flashbacks, just narration of events in chronological order. He started his story by saying he was saved from sin, which is a big statement. Then he said, “But not really saved” which is intriguing because he opposed his first statement. Then he started to relate the events of how he lied “to be saved” from trouble, not sins.

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In his narration, he described the behavior of the people around him, how he felt during the activities and he also narrated what he was thinking during the event. The way he described things were simple and light.

 The story was funny because the aunt was telling Hughes that he’s going to see a light and he will come to Jesus. Hughes went on looking for the light, but, until the end, he couldn’t see the light the aunt was referring to. The other kids were coming to front that means they’ve already seen the light and are saved. He was the only kid left so he pretended to have seen it and came forward. He knew he never saw the light, a light. And he cannot tell that to his aunt. I find it funny because the older people were so into the worship and the praise while Hughes was not sure about what’s going on. And he cannot tell the truth to his aunt because I think he feels what he did is wrong. I think he thinks the aunt won’t understand.

I could personally relate to what Hughes was saying. When I was younger, my parents would really have to force me to come and attend church. I didn’t enjoy attending masses because I don’t understand what the people were saying and because I don’t agree with how my parents would force use to go to church. Now, I don’t get to agree with so many things regarding our family church issues, but, I can’t argue because I feel that when it comes to church issues, my parents aren’t open-minded and I don’t want to argue with them. It’ll get them mad.

But, more than just church issues, I think what the story is exposing is the reality that people fake themselves just to fit in to the crowd. It is part of our mechanism to pretend or fake ourselves to get the approval of the people. We wish to belong. We want to be accepted. And in order to have that sense of belonging and to become accepted, somehow, we must be like other people—to believe in what they believe, to conform. It is difficult to belong. We have to agree to what others agree in to. If we don’t, that would cause arguments. And there can be two possible consequences of that. First would be to consider our argument. The second would be to totally discount the idea. The first one would still make us part of the crowd, but, it doesn’t mean that all have totally accepted the argument. The second one will be uneventful because that will make us aliens, being different among the rest. Like now, I think we have an observable increase in the number of visible homosexuals. I think it’s because more have already accepted that men doesn’t always have to be men, and women doesn’t always have to be women. Before, when someone comes out, the person becomes so controversial. Now, when someone comes out, it doesn’t make much noise like it’s so ordinary.

But, I think that faking in is saddening. It represses our selves. It is sad because we think no one understands. I believe everyone is guilty of that. And I don’t think that there is any society that totally respects individuality. If there is, we just have to be ourselves. But we don’t. We still fake. But, I think it is okay because, somehow, we really do want some people to accept us and there are also some people we want to accept, in which, for that case, we are still the one who does the faking. That keeps us away from confusion, conflicts and troubles. We have to have something in common so to avoid all those troubles. Because if we are too different from others, I think we’ll have to live in a too difficult world. And who wants that?

Who Will Light Incense when Mother’s Gone? by Andrew Lam

            The writer, Lam, started his story by giving a description of her mother, the main character in Lam’s story. He started this way to point that the story revolves with the mother. Then, he gave the main point of the story—who will light the incenses when Lam’s mother is gone? This is actually the question of the mother to her sister. The question made the author reflect on his family tradition and on his identity as a Vietnamese living in America.

            He wrote the story in a way that the reader will become sympathetic more on the mother. He presented the mother not as a frustrated character for in the beginning of the story he described the mother’s asking the question to the sister as in confidence. Later, he retold a story of how the mother got disappointed to him when he refused to use their native language at their home in America. He, on the other hand, was the defensive character, not a loathing character, but he presented himself as a character the reader will be able to understand.

            He had the flashback style when he wrote his story. The question triggered the flashback. The question was picking on him regarding their ancestral tradition and on his identity as an Asian living in Western style. Presenting the question first would make him explain why the mother had that kind of question. Without reading further the story, the reader could sense that the mother feels she is the only person who practices the tradition and she knows none of her children nor will grandchildren continue it because the generations after her are already westernized especially that they are not in their homeland but in America. So, he has to go back to how their lives went on when they got here in America that made the mother think that way.

            When the story got back to the present setting, it started the short reflection of the writer. But he also incorporated reflections during the middle part of the story.

            I am not sure if I could relate to any of the characters. But I can agree on a lot of the points presented in this story. For the side of the mother, I don’t find her question offensive. It isn’t difficult to understand how she has thought that way. And I could admire her for keeping the Vietnamese life even on a foreign land. She wasn’t thinking of becoming alienated. She kept the traditions and the culture remained intact to her, based on the testimonies of Lam to her mother. I think it’s a good thing to preserve culture. It may be irrelevant at times, but, it gives us identity. I’m not sure if it is a good thing to keep it in practice especially if it is irrelevant, but to keep the essence among us and teach it to the younger people is good because it’s History. I think that is what Lam wants to do. He is not sure if he could practice it. He doesn’t want to assure the mother that he will continue lighting the incenses for the mother when she’s gone and for the late ancestors. The thing is, he couldn’t feel the essence of lighting incense, rather, he does that for “pleasing my mother,” he said. I think what is important is to understand deeply the essence of such rituals and traditions and to pass that to the young ones.

            I think, though, that practicing traditions can give an overwhelming feeling because it’s like being part of History practicing what people have practiced hundreds of thousands of years ago. I think that’s amazing.

            On another point, I think one cannot help himself but to get himself adapted to a foreign culture especially when he is at another country. Sooner or later, he will get himself so adapted that he will feel the foreign culture is not foreign to him at all. Also, when you are going to get yourself a permanent on another land, you could really forget about your old culture. An emphasis on could; I didn’t say should!

The two stories:

            The stories seem like non-fiction because the stories were written using the first person. When the writer injects himself on the story, it would seem real because events were related by the view point of a witness—the writer. And using the first person, the reader would have that sense of having someone telling him an account of a certain event so it becomes real. What made the stories non-fiction is because the events really took place. The reader wouldn’t think it was made up because the stories are very realistic. There are no twists, no exciting events but just plain events which is so not far from reality. The stories are very simple and many could relate to it. It is not just the events that are real, but also the characters and the settings.

            Writers of non-fiction still should employ creativity to their work to make it interesting. And to become creative, yes, you will need good imagination, maybe not imagining unreal events, but, how to present the events so the story piece will become a good literature. Putting in unreal events make a non-fiction work a fiction, so, one cannot imagine and write a false setting.

             In making reflections, though, the writer can use his imagination. Lam has applied imagination on his work when he came to the part of how he becomes westernized and on his other reflections. On that part of the story where the writer writes his thoughts and reflections, maybe he could use his imagination. One can attest to a person and the events. It is easy to prove persons and events as real or unreal. However, on thoughts and reflections, nobody could but the writer.

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Reaction on Salvation and Who Will Light the Incense When Mother’s Gone. (2016, Nov 12). Retrieved from

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