It has been argued that "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes reveals the effects of kindness and compassion and how these two qualities have the potential to change someone's life. Do you agree or...

It has been argued that "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes reveals the effects of kindness and compassion and how these two qualities have the potential to change someone's life. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

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kcoleman2016 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Agree: Compassion and kindness have the potential to change someone's life, as demonstrated in "Thank You, Ma'am."

In "Thank You, Ma'am," Roger is treated with kindness and compassion by Mrs. Jones. Rather than calling the police after he tries to steal her pocketbook, she brings him home, gets him to wash his face, feeds him, does not lecture him, does not practice constant surveillance over him, and gives him money for shoes. Initially, Roger is described is anxious, unhappy, and prepared for conflict. His statements are immediate and monosyllabic. However, over the course of the very bizarre evening, the descriptions change. After she chooses not to lecture him but instead empathizes with his situation, "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 of her eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now." When she gives him the money, she simply wishes he would behave, but does not ask nor demand it. His attitude and behavior completely change by the end, when he wants "to say something other than 'Thank you, ma'am'" at the end of the story, but he is unable to do so. The reader cannot know if the compassion and kindness that Mrs. Jones has demonstrated will change Roger's life, but the potential is obvious in the diction and the characterization of Roger. 

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