In Langston Hughes's "Thank You Ma'am", how did Mrs. Jones's confession influence Roger's actions?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Mrs. Jones’s confession, Roger tries very hard to make sure that she trusts him.

In this story, a boy named Roger tries to steal the purse of a woman named Mrs. Jones late one night. It is hardly your typical purse-snatching though.  Instead of Roger snatching Mrs. Jones’s purse, Mrs. Jones snatches Roger!  She notices that he is not a hard case, but really just a boy with a dirty face,  so she takes him home.

Once at her house, Roger has a few chances to leave.  She asks him to wash up, and he has to choose between running or going to the sink.  He decides to go to the sink.  Now that they have established some trust, Mrs. Jones tells Roger a story.  She lets him know that once when she was young, she did some things she regretted.

The woman was sitting on the day-bed. After a while she said, "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get."

She tells him that she has done some things that are between her and God, and looks at him carefully to see how he will accept this confession.  She is aware that he is thinking that she is still judging him for stealing her purse.  However, when she begins to open up to him, he begins to open up to her.  He starts to sit so that it is clearer that he is not trying to run.  He wants her to know that he can trust her.

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 other eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now.

He even asks her if she needs anything from the store!  They eat dinner together, and she tells him all about herself but does not ask him questions about himself “or anything else that would embarrass him.”  She knows that there is no one at home at eleven at night, because he already told her.  That tells her all she needs to know.  That is why he is out stealing purses.  He had told her that he wanted shoes, and so before he leaves, she gives him the money.

This is the story of two people from similar backgrounds that find each other in a difficult situation.  They each need something from one another, and learn to trust one another.  They become friends, in a strange way, for a time.  This is a direct result of the fact that Mrs. Jones took a chance on Roger, and knew how to open up to him.