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Sanctuary in On the Road and A Clean Well-Lighted Place

Quest for Sanctuary in On the Road and A Clean Well-Lighted Place

The biblical chapter of Exodus outlined man’s struggle to find sanctuary in a world tormented by greed, doubt, and the prospect of death. “On the Road” by Langston Hughes, and “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway are two fine examples of such a quest. Although told through different perspectives in vastly different situations, the themes of both stories are the same: man’s desire for acceptance, the loss of faith and the pain of loneliness and aging. Perhaps society has changed since these stories were written, yet their timeless themes still pertain to each and every individual facing a situation in which he or she craves solace.

“On the Road” begins with the image of a cold, black, homeless man searching for comfort out of a snowstorm. He first seeks relief in a shelter but he is turned away by a priest. This is symbolic of the hypocrisy and apparent racism of the times. The era is so infected by prejudice, even members of the clergy have adopted such an evil ideology. Searching for more solace, the man finds himself directly in front of a church. When the locked doors do not give way to his desire to enter and warm his body, the townspeople try to pull him away. The citizens battle with him to block his access to shelter. Like Sampson, he tears the building down, and with the church, Jesus is torn from the crucifix. As later demonstrated through dialog, Jesus is merely a traveler whose work isn’t being done in the town. He makes his way to Kansas City and the homeless man ends up in a jail cell.

Langston Hughes, one of the most prominent authors of the famed Harlem Renaissance, understood the themes of injustice and …

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…ords in the daily prayer with “nada” (nothing.) This signifies the loss of faith and the acceptance that man is a victim of his circumstances. If man has nada on which to rely, nada will provide him with nada. Although fundamentalism is on the rise in America, people are still grappling with the idea of faith, dismissing the practice altogether or seeking new forms of religion and spirituality.

These stories were written before the rise of the computer, the internet and even the concept of instant gratification. Society may not be able to place “On the Road” and “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” into their proper historical context or relate entirely to the time in which they were written. However, the strong moral and religious themes on which they were based will always ring true for society. Somewhere in this world, there is another Exodus occurring.

Horrors of Ghetto Life Exposed in Whoreson and Dopefiend

Horrors of Ghetto Life Exposed in Whoreson and Dopefiend

Donald Goines’s lived the majority of his life either on the streets of the ghetto or in jail-because he was supporting himself and his heroin addiction by taking part in many illegal activities. During the last of his many prison terms, Goines finally found his way out of having to rely on crime for his way of living. He did this by writing about his life on the streets. His first two books, Whoreson and Dopefiend, were actually written during his last prison term. One critic of Goines, his biographer Eddie Stone, says the following about these books: “Whoreson, like most of Donald Goines’s books, is autobiographical . . . . Donald wrote Dopefiend from personal experience, and the pages of the novel draw the reader into that world with almost hypnotic rhythm” (145, 151-52). It is because of the fact that Goines was writing from experience that he was able to make reading one of his books such a captivating and harrowing experience. These books are similar because they are both realistic portrayals of the negative aspects of ghetto life, and they are both Goines’s attempts to try to keep the next generation of young black people from making the same mistakes that he did. However, these books differ because Dopefiend is a more truthful, autobiographical portrayal of what Goines’s life was really like than Whoreson is.

Goines’s ghetto, as portrayed in Whoreson, is essentially the same ghetto he lived in all his life, which makes his portrayal of the negative aspects of ghetto life quite realistic. Therefore, because Goines was writing from experience, this makes his portrayal of the ghetto all the more realistic. In fact, Stone, even quotes passages …

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…iend he or she would have a story close to Goines’s real life biography. Dopefiend chronicles the horror of heroin addiction, which was his motive for becoming a pimp (like Whoreson). While Whoreson chronicles his reasons for embracing street life as a teenager, before he went to Korea and became a heroin addict.

Works Cited

Primary Sources

Goines, Donald. Dopefiend. Los Angeles: Holloway House, 1971.

– – – . Whoreson. Los Angeles: Holloway House, 1972.

Secondary Sources

Goode, Greg. “From Dopefiend to Kenyatta’s Last Hit: The Angry Black Crime Novels of Donald Goines,” MELUS 11.3 (1984): 41-48.

– – – . “Donald Goines,” DLB 33, Afro-American Fiction Writers After 1955, eds Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris, 1984, 96-100.

Stone, Eddie. Donald Writes No More: A Biography of Donald Goines. Los Angeles: Holloway House, 1974.

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