How does Roger demonstrate respect in Mrs. Jones' house in the short story, "Thank you, Ma'am," by Langston Hughes?

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kathik eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Thank You, Ma'am," by Langston Hughes, a young teenaged boy named Roger attempts to steal Mrs. Jones' purse, but Mrs. Jones, grabs him and takes him home with her. At first Roger thinks she is going to take him to jail, but once he realizes she is not, he relaxes a little. He shows her respect when she leaves him alone to make dinner. Her purse is right there, and he could easily snatch it and make a run for it, but he does not. At this point, Roger wants Mrs. Jones to trust him, even though earlier he was not very trustworthy.

"But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now." (Hughes 3)

At dinner, Roger respectfully listened to Mrs. Jones as she told him about her job and the women she served in a hotel beauty shop. He wished he could do more than just say, "Thank you" when she gave him money for those shoes he so desperately wanted. He learned a big lesson on the day he met up with Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.