In "Thank You, M'am," why didn't Roger run away, when he had the chance, when Mrs. Jones told him to wash his face?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes, Roger is a young boy who learns a valuable lesson when his efforts to steal Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones's purse backfires on him and she is able to detain him, most unwillingly, when he falls. Mrs. Jones wastes no time in securing him, during which time she assesses the situation and Roger.

At first, Roger squirms and resists Mrs. Jones as she keeps walking, "dragging the frightened boy behind her." Roger  attempts to apologize but his words mean nothing to Mrs. Jones. She is intent on teaching Roger a lesson but right now he does not know what steps she intends to take. He is most concerned that she may take him to the police station so he can be punished for attempting to steal and, even as they approach her house, he is not entirely sure what she intends to do with him. 

Once they go inside, Roger becomes aware of his surroundings, either so that he can make his escape or so that he can understand his situation better. The reader is not entirely sure yet what either of them may be thinking. However, Roger must make a crucial decision. He knows that Mrs. Jones could call for help if he runs, but he has also become more curious as to what she wants for him. Finally, he makes his decision and "looked at the door—looked at the woman—looked at the door—and went to the sink." He hopes that it will be worth the risk. He will not be disappointed.