In "Thank you M'am" by Langston Hughes, when Roger enters Mrs. Jones’s room, she leaves the door open. Why?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mrs Jones has just dragged Roger very forcibly into her house. She has been holding him, we are told, in a half-Nelson grip and is a large and imposing woman, while Roger is "willow-wild" and slender for his age. Therefore, although the text doesn't tell us explicitly, we can assume...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Mrs Jones has just dragged Roger very forcibly into her house. She has been holding him, we are told, in a half-Nelson grip and is a large and imposing woman, while Roger is "willow-wild" and slender for his age. Therefore, although the text doesn't tell us explicitly, we can assume that Mrs Jones wants to reassure Roger that she isn't actually taking him prisoner when she brings him into her house. We are told that Roger can hear the chatter of other people in the house—specifically, people "laughing and talking." These are reassuring sounds: Roger now knows that he and the woman are not alone in the house, and this presumably will reassure him that Mrs .Jones is not about to commit an act of violence toward him, as this would be heard by the other boarders in the house. Likewise, the door being left open prevents Roger from feeling as if he has been forcibly confined in the house. If he wanted to leave the room, he could do so.

The way Mrs Jones begins her interaction with Roger is aggressive, but she is always careful to prevent the boy from being too frightened—she does not want to be yet another bad influence in his life but rather is trying to help him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Mrs. Jones eventually drags Roger into her home, she purposely leaves the door open for him as she instructs him to wash his face in the sink. Mrs. Jones purposely leaves the door open for Roger to make him feel comfortable and in control of the situation. She does not want Roger to feel confined or forced to stay in her home. Mrs. Jones is also intentionally teaching Roger an important lesson in decision-making and trust. Roger has clearly made a poor choice by attempting to steal Mrs. Jones's purse, which is why she is now giving him the opportunity to make a better one. She also wants Roger to learn to trust others and begins by giving him the option to leave or trust that he is in good hands and stay.

Fortunately, Roger makes the right choice by assessing the situation, correctly judging Mrs. Jones's intentions, exercising trust in Mrs. Jones, and deciding to remain in her home. Roger proceeds to follow Mrs. Jones's instructions by washing his face in the sink before he enjoys a hearty meal and receives ten dollars from Mrs. Jones to purchase a pair of blue suede shoes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mrs. Jones is anxious to ensure that Roger learns a lesson in trust. She thinks that if she trusts Roger enough to leave the door open, he'll respond in an appropriate manner. Mrs. Jones senses that Roger's not someone who's ever been placed in a position of trust before, at any time in his short life. She figures that if she shows she trusts Roger, then, in return, he will learn to be more trusting of people in general.

Mrs. Jones doubtless also thinks that if she leaves the door open and Roger doesn't run off, that will reveal to her what the young boy is really like. Leaving the door open will be a test of Roger's true character.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the short story “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes, Mrs. Jones leaves the door open to her room as a lesson in trust and decision-making. When the pair arrives at Mrs. Jones’ room she has Roger wash his face and comb his hair so he will be presentable to eat supper with her. At that point, he thinks to himself that he could run but he makes the choice to stay. Mrs. Jones does not pry, she does not scold; she treats him as visitor in her home, which is not what he expected. During their conversation, she reveals that she did some unacceptable things in her youth. She goes behind the screen to warm up the ham, lima beans, and cocoa, leaving the door open with her purse sitting on the daybed within Roger’s reach. He could grab it and run, but he does not. Roger even offers to go to the store to show that he is to be trusted, but Mrs. Jones does not need anything. While she is behind the screen, he moves to the opposite side of the room where he thinks she can see him out of the corner of her eye. He wants Mrs. Jones to trust him as much as she wants to.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Roger is the teenage protagonist of "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes, and when we first meet him he is trying to steal a woman's purse. That woman is Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, an imposing African American woman who promptly sets him on his back end--without ever letting go of her purse, of course. 

When she looks at the boy more closely, she can tell that he is not being well taken care of, as he is rather dirty and a bit unkempt. Though the boy wants to leave, she is unwilling to let him off the hook so easily, so she makes him go home with her. 

She thinks he tried to steal her purse for money, but he tells her that he just wanted to buy a pair of blue suede shoes. Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones understands wanting things she cannot have, and she has some things in her past of which she is not proud. Clearly she decides to give the boy a chance--presumably the same kind of chance someone once gave her.

When she goes to fix some dinner, she leaves the door open and her pocketbook on the bed. She obviously does it it in order to demonstrate her trust in him, and it works.

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. 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.

The woman gives the boy ten dollars for the shoes; even more importantly, she gives him her trust. 

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on