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

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

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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.


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