In the short story "Thank You, M'am," what is a theme I could use and how?

Expert Answers

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

Theme is the underlying message of a literary work. Langston Hughes communicates the theme of dignity and trust in his short story “Thank You M’am.” When Roger attempts to steal the imposing Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’ purse in order to get money to buy a pair of blue suede...

See
This Answer Now

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

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Theme is the underlying message of a literary work. Langston Hughes communicates the theme of dignity and trust in his short story “Thank You M’am.” When Roger attempts to steal the imposing Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’ purse in order to get money to buy a pair of blue suede shoes she has the choice of calling the police or teaching him a lesson herself. She decides to take him home to teach him a life lesson he will long remember.

Mrs. Jones is a hard working, dignified woman who understands what it is like to be young, poor, and uncared for. She wants Roger to realize that in spite of life’s obstacles he will fare better if he maintains his dignity and trustworthiness. In their short encounter, she provides him with that lesson by taking him to her small room where she shares her supper with him. She has him wash up, and gives him opportunities to take her purse and run off. He seems to surprise himself by demonstrating that he can be trusted. He does not leave with her purse instead he stays and eats with her while she tells him a bit about her life. In the end, Mrs. Jones provides him with money for the new shoes. She does not lecture him or yell at him, instead she allows him to have self dignity and to demonstrate that he can be trusted. He is so overcome by her kindness that he has a hard time thanking her. In this short story, theme is exhibited in the dialogue and actions of characters.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team