Thank You, M'am Questions and Answers
by Langston Hughes

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In "Thank You, M'am," why does Mrs. Jones make Roger wash his face?

In the short story "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes, Mrs. Jones makes Roger wash his face because she wants to offer him the unselfish love that he does not receive from his family. After she has him wash his face, she feeds him a meal and gives him money to buy shoes, despite the fact that he tried to snatch her purse earlier.

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In the short story "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes, a boy named Roger tries to snatch the purse from the arm of a large woman named Luella Bates Washington Jones. She is too strong for him, though, and instead, he falls flat on his back on the sidewalk. She grabs him and points out that his face is dirty. Upon hearing from Roger that there is no one at his home that tells him to wash his face, Luella tells him that she will see to it that his face gets washed.

Although Mrs. Jones continues to act gruffly with the boy and holds him in a powerful grip, it is obvious that at the point she hears about his deprived background, her attitude changes towards him. She takes him home ostensibly to wash his face, but in fact, she is determined to show him some loving kindness. She not only gives him soap and a towel to wash his face, but she feeds him a meal and gives him ten dollars to buy a pair of shoes. Once he understands her intentions, he no longer attempts to run away. He behaves respectfully. Mrs. Jones confides to him that in her youth, she too did things she is ashamed of. When he leaves Mrs. Jones, Roger is deeply grateful but doesn't know how to express it. Readers get the impression that this chance encounter with Mrs. Jones will change Roger's life.

We see, then, that Luella makes Roger wash his face because she wants to restore self-respect and dignity to him as she gives him a glimpse of the unselfish love that he should have been receiving from his family.

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