What do you think Roger learned from the way Mrs. Jones treated him in "Thank You, M'am"? Name two things.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Young Roger has learned (1) to respect people and their property, and he has learned that (2) there are people who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others.

(1) When Roger attempts to steal her purse away from Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, he thinks selfishly only of his own gain. But, as the strap of her purse breaks, she kicks him and then picks him up and shakes him. Mrs. Bates gains Roger's attention, and he is forced to see her as a real person to whom he has meant harm. When she asks him if he will run if released from her grip, Roger replies that he will, so she maintains her control over him. Further, she asks Roger why he has wanted to steal her purse. He maintains that he "did not aim to," but Mrs. Jones tells him he is lying.

Later, at her home, Mrs. Jones talks with Roger, asking him what he wanted that he felt he had to steal for it, and she stresses the wrong that he has done to her personally. Impressed with her words, Roger chooses to remain with Mrs. Jones when he could run and not risk getting into trouble with the law. He respects her.

(2) While she scolds Roger, Mrs. Jones also takes care of him:

“Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?”

Having learned from Roger that there is no one at home to care for him, Mrs. Jones drags the boy behind her so that she can "wash his face." With motherly kindness, once in her kitchenette room, Mrs. Jones offers to feed Roger. In addition, the considerate Mrs. Jones does not

ask the boy anything about where he lived, or his folks, or anything else that would embarrass him.

After they eat, Mrs. Jones generously gives Roger ten dollars with which to purchase the blue suede shoes he desires, urging him to behave. Awkwardly, Roger tries to say "thank you" as the door shuts, greatly touched by the kindness and interest in him shown by Mrs. Jones.

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In spite of Roger's attempt to rob her, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington does not call the police or punish him. Instead, she treats him with dignity, offering him food even though it is obvious that she is so poor that she can barely afford to feed herself. She asks his name, and tells him to wash his face. Then she gives him the option of leaving, but Roger decides to stay. It is Mrs. Washington's way of showing trust in the boy and giving him the option of his freedom. After he eats, the lady gives the boy $10 in order to pay for the blue suede shoes that he hoped to buy with his stolen money. As he leaves, he humbly tells her "Thank you, m'am."

Mrs. Washington probably felt a kinship with the poor African-American child, and she hoped that her kindness would offer him an example of goodness and spiritual guidance for him to remember in the future.