Explain Mrs. Jones’ behavior in the following quote from "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes: "The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the day-bed."

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In order to make an inference regarding Mrs. Jones’ behavior, it’s important to recognize how her behavior changed throughout the course of the short story.

At the beginning of “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes, Mrs. Jones presented herself as more of an authoritative figure in Roger’s life. She demanded that Roger pick up her purse that he tried to steal and scolded him by saying, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?” (1). At some points she even gets physical with him by “kick[ing] him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter” and “jerk[ing] him” so that he wouldn’t run away (1-2).

Shortly after, however, Mrs. Jones’ demeanor changes from being authoritative to motherly. She shows concern for Roger since she recognizes that his face is dirty and he probably hasn’t eaten in awhile since, according to Roger, he has no one at home. With this in mind, she takes Roger to her house so that he can wash himself up and get something to eat.

Before she made them something to eat, Mrs. Jones explained to Roger that she understood where he was coming from. She said, “I were young once and I wanted things I couldn’t get” (2). She continued later by saying, “I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know” (3).

With that, a level of trust between Mrs. Jones and Roger had developed. While she was cooking their meal, Mrs. Jones wasn’t watching Roger because she knew he wouldn’t run or take her purse. By revealing an intimate detail about herself to Roger, Mrs. Jones portrayed herself as a sympathetic, honest, and trustworthy person. By not running and not taking her purse, Roger proved to Mrs. Jones that has in fact learned his lesson.

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