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Langston Hughes' short story “Thank You, M'am” tells the story of a boy named Roger who tries to steal the purse of a determined but kind woman named Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.
As stories go, this one is pretty straightforward. Hughes isn't trying to make things challenging for the reader with any hidden meanings or obscure symbolism. His purpose in this work is simply to show how a good woman, through an act of unexpected kindness, brings about an important change in a young man's life.
The story opens when Roger attempts to steal Mrs. Jones' purse. But he is no match for her physically, and she drags him back to her apartment where she proceeds to speak to him pleasantly and offer him food and drink. Roger is surprised by her behavior, and quickly changes his attitude, wanting her trust him. We see how he changes in this passage:
. . . 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.
Here we see that Roger now actively wants the trust of the woman he just tried to rob. Hughes' use of the word “now” at the end of the sentence implies that the woman has done something to bring this change of heart about.
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