In "Thank You, M’am," how did Mrs. Jones react when Roger tried to steal her purse?

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skyey-i | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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From the beginning to the end, Mrs. Jones reacts in a way that is completely beyond Roger’s expectation.  In the first place, Roger is quite sure that he would be able to pull the purse slinging on Mrs. Jones shoulders and run away with it. He tries doing so with maximum force but the purse is much heavier than he thinks. He loses his balance and falls down on the pavement. Mrs. Jones kicks him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter” and then picks him up by his shirt. When she starts shaking him with both her hands, his teeth start "rattling." Her grip is too strong to be escaped from. Her robust and vigorous reaction stuns him.

Roger’s obvious expectation was that Mrs. Jones would hand him over to the police. Completely against his thoughts, she takes him to her house. What follows there leaves him speechless and overwhelmed with a strong sense of gratitude.

Despite being a stranger, Mrs. Jones treats him just like her son. She shouts at him for being so untidy and unkempt. She asks him to clean his face and offers him a clean towel and a comb. Then she cooks him something to eat and shares the dining table with him. She takes care not to embarrass him by her question or remark and speaks to him quite informally.

Before he leaves, she gives him ten dollars to buy himself a pair of suede shoes. Her final words to him are,

“Good-night! Behave yourself, boy!”

Roger must be thinking that Mrs. Jones is like no other woman. He had just tried to rob her of her purse and he is probably wondering how it’s possible that she had been so kind and affectionate to him. Thus, the way Mrs. Jones reacts not only amazes Roger but also the readers. We’d love to hope that her motherly and empathetic reaction brings about a tremendous change in Roger, who until now has been a petty thief. 

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