How do you think the thinking skill of uncovering motives influenced your understanding of the story Thank You M'am by Langston Hughes? Explain.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From knowledge and understanding, an individual is able to apply his mind, hopefully to its maximum potential, in order to solve problems, and this reveals the basic element of thinking skills. On considering the thinking skill of uncovering motives and applying this to a situation, an individual either has to have some knowledge of the person or the typical circumstance or a grasp of textual analysis. Typically, in a story like Thank You M'am, the boy would be hauled off to the police station and his future determined by the acts of others. However, the reader gradually comes to understand Mrs Jones' motives as the story progresses. This is a good example of truly unselfish and even self-sacrificing behavior as Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones helps Roger without having any regard for herself or the fact that the $10 she gives him means she will be $10 short. 

Mrs Jones shows her observational skills and is clearly a caring person as, rather than concentrating on her damaged purse, she concentrates on Roger. The reader sees a "no-nonsense" woman but one who is fair and takes a challenge at its face value and turns it into an opportunity such that "If you think that that contact is not going to last awhile, you got another thought coming." She has already identified Roger as a neglected youth with physical needs (he needs food and a clean face!) and she has identified his need for a role model; "Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?"

The reasons for her good observation,self-awareness and empathy become evident as the reader learns that she has "done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know." Mrs Jones can identify with Roger's circumstances and the reader's enjoyment is enhanced because, having now uncovered Mrs Jones' motives for helping Roger, the reader can see how she is taking responsibility for him, even temporarily, just to give him a second chance. The fact that she expects nothing in return, except to "behave yourself, boy!" further enhances the reader's understanding that life is about mutual respect and co-operation. The story becomes much more than a heart-warming story but a lesson for the reader.