"Roger looked at the door- looked at the woman - looked at the door- and went to the sink ."  Why did the author choose to italicize this part of the text in "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Roger looked at the door--looked at the woman--looked at the door--and went to the sink.

The appearance of the italicized words differs from the upright letters, suggesting the leaning of a person who is ready to run or flee. Also, one almost reads italicized letters faster. Thus, in "Thank You Ma'm" when Roger looks at the door, the italicized print is the objective correlative of Roger's poised position to swiftly flee for fear that Mrs. Jones may turn him in after all, or punish him further. 

Physically and psychologically intimidated by Mrs. Jones after she has picked him up, put him in a wrestling hold, and literally dragged him up the street and into her house, Roger swiftly contemplates running away from her by darting his eyes from the door to the woman to the door, but his hunger takes him to the sink to wash his hands before eating. Then, as he washes, Roger asks Mrs. Jones, "Are you going to take me to jail?" But, the warm-hearted woman jokingly replies, "Not with that face, I would not take you nowhere."

The kind Mrs. Jones feeds Roger and talks with him about what he has done. Again, he considers running from the scene. After she feeds Roger, she tells him that if he had asked for money for the shoes, she would have given it to him. Later, she hands him ten dollars and urges him to behave himself. Stunned, Roger barely utters his thanks before she shuts the door.

Certainly, Roger is glad that he did not flee, and he is truly touched by the charity of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.


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Thank You, M'am

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