Thank You, M'am Questions and Answers
by Langston Hughes

Thank You, M'am book cover
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How does the narrator's point of view help make Roger the protagonist of this story?

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The short story "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes is told from an omniscient third person perspective. In other words, Hughes tells us the story in a way in which we can gain the thoughts and feelings of both Mrs. Bates and Roger. We traditionally think of protagonists as the main characters in the story, which leaves us with a bit of a problem - exactly who is the main character in this story? While omniscient third person offers readers insight to both of the main characters, the way in which Hughes develops the point of view makes Roger our protagonist

Third person points-of-view allow readers to focus on the action, thus, allowing them to form their own opinion of the meaning of the work. If the story was told from a first person point-of-view, we would have ended up with a subjective piece of work: Roger would tell us about the unfortunate night where he got caught stealing but learned a lesson or Mrs. Bates would tell us about the unfortunate night where someone tried to steal her purse but she taught him a lesson. Being subjective means that we wouldn't be able to know what Roger's thoughts were when he was at her house at critical moments - for example, when he was deciding to do as he was told or run for the door. By telling it from a third person perspective, readers are able to look at each piece of action, evaluate it, and make something of it. 

A protagonist is never without flaws - that character tends to change and develop throughout the text. In "Thank You, Ma'am," we see Roger as the character that changes or develops by the end of the text because of the actions of Mrs. Bates. 

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