In Thank You, M'am, why does Roger want money?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Thank You, M'am by Langston Hughes, an unexpected relationship develops between Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones and Roger who tries to steal Mrs. Jones's purse but gets caught. Roger's dirty face is a sure sign to Mrs. Jones that he is a victim of circumstance and she takes this opportunity to teach him a lesson. She understands that punishing him is not the answer and shows him kindness and understanding, especially when she hears that there is no-one at his home. She recognizes that he is in need of some guidance and is the ideal person to share her own experiences. She is hopeful that revealing to him that she too "wanted things I could not have" will help him  appreciate that the answer does not lie in stealing.

Roger is desperate for money because he wants a pair of "blue suede shoes" which he otherwise cannot afford; even believing that there is any other way. By the time he leaves Mrs. Jones's home he has washed his face, learned respect and even received the precious $10 to buy the shoes which amount Mrs. Jones gives him willingly. Roger is stunned by her generosity and the fact that her only condition is that he should 'behave' himself.