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In the story, "Thank you, Ma'am," by Langston Hughes, what is the theme?I have read the...

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woolalalalala | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:00 AM via web

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In the story, "Thank you, Ma'am," by Langston Hughes, what is the theme?

I have read the story but I don't know the answer to this..

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:42 AM (Answer #1)

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Author Langston Hughes explores several themes in his poignant short story, "Thank You, M'am." The ideas of trust, dignity and respect are foremost in the interactions between the protagonist, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones and her would-be purse snatcher, Roger. The conflict arises when Roger tries to steal Mrs. Jones' purse; the large woman cuffs him, however, and leads him to her apartment. Once inside, she treats him with the respect he has probably rarely encountered, offering him a place to clean himself and then a portion of her meager meal. She leaves her purse unprotected, showing that she trusts the boy despite his earlier transgression. In the end, the poor woman--who obviously can barely make ends meet--gives Roger $10 in order to buy the blue suede shoes he so desperately desires. She then shows him the door; the boy, obviously humbled and gratified by her kindness, manages to thank her as the door closes behind him. Mrs. Jones' actions are meant to instill trust and confidence in the boy who, like her, is in need of both material and spiritual guidance.

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