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Langston Hughes's stories deal with and serve as a commentary of conditions befalling African Americans during the Depression Era. As Ostrom explains, "To a great degree, his stories speak for those who are disenfranchised, cheated, abused, or ignored because of race or class." (51) Hughes's stories speak of the downtrodden African-Americans neglected and overlooked by a prejudiced society. The recurring theme of powerlessness leads to violence is exemplified by the actions of Sargeant in "On the Road", old man Oyster in "Gumption", and the robber in "Why, You Reckon?" Hughes's "On the Road" explores what happens when a powerless individual takes action on behalf of his conditions. The short story illustrates the desperation and consequent violent actions of one man's homeless plight on a snowy winter evening. "He stopped and stood on the sidewalk hunched over- hungry, sleepy, and cold- looking up and down." (Hughes 90) Here, Sargeant is without the basic necessities of life- shelter and food. Sargeant, hopeless and starving, wanders the lonesome streets and happens upon a church. However, the reverend of the church denies Sargeant access. Mullen explains further- "And in "On the Road" an unemployed black man, given a quick brush-off by a high-toned preacher, breaks into a church" (81) When the Reverend refuses to house him, Sargeant's desperation and powerlessness leads him to commit a rash action- tear down the church door to a street of on-lookers. Shortly after, Police come to take Sargeant away and put him behind bars, where he reminisces on his actions. Had Sargeant simply had the basic means of survival, food and shelter, he would not have had done out of desperation. In other words, Sageant's lack of security- food, shelter, and warmth, lead him to take violent actions in attempt to obtain it.
The short story "Gumption" underlines the rash actions that can be taken by powerless individuals.