Empathy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Although Mrs. Jones shows Roger many acts of...
In Langston Hughes' short story "Thank You, Ma'am," there are several ways in which Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones shows empathy for Roger.
Empathy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Although Mrs. Jones shows Roger many acts of kindness along the way, the empathy she shows is directed toward his hunger, state of neglect, and his desire to have things he cannot obtain honestly.
In the following quote, Mrs. Jones shows empathy toward Roger by asking if he's hungry. When she finds out he is, she takes him home to get supper for him. Readers can make a reasonable inference that she empathizes with him at this point because she sees beyond his crime and into his need.
"'You gonna take me to jail?" asked the boy, bending over the sink. "Not with that face, I would not take you nowhere," said the woman. "Here I am trying to get home to cook me a bite to eat and you snatch my pocketbook! Maybe you ain't been to your supper either, late as it be. Have you?" "There's nobody home at my house," said the boy. "Then we'll eat," said the woman. "I believe you're hungry—or been hungry—to try to snatch my pocketbook.'"
When they are at Mrs. Jones's house, she begins empathizing with the boy's desire for the blue suede shoes.
"'I were young once and I wanted things I could not get." There was another long pause. The boy's mouth opened. Then he frowned, but not knowing he frowned. The woman said, "Urn-hum! You thought I was going to say but, didn't you? You thought I was going to say, but I didn't snatch people's pocketbooks. Well, I wasn't going to say that." Pause. Silence. "I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if He didn't already know.'"
Her choice to refrain from lecturing Roger on his crime is also an act of empathy. She understands how it feels to be in his position, and she determines that a lecture will not help him. Instead, she shows him her own humanity by telling him that she, too, has done wrong things that she is ashamed of.
Lastly, she shows empathy when she gives Roger the ten dollars for the blue suede shoes he wanted. She knows how it feels to want things and have no way to get them. She wants Roger to have the thing he desires and not get it by dishonest means, so she helps him by giving him the money. Considering her humble living conditions, this had to have been a financial sacrifice for her.