Langston Hughes

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In "Thank You M'am" what is interesting about Hughes' description of Mrs. Jones' purse?

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The description of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’ purse is symbolically interesting in Langston Hughes’ short story, “Thank You M’am.” Both the purse and the woman are described as being “large." The purse holds “everything in it but hammer and nails.” In other words it holds the contents of the woman’s life.  Mrs. Jones walks down the street with the pocketbook held close to her for safety. As Roger attempts to break away with the purse, he falls to the ground due to its heaviness. Based on the contents of her purse, Mrs. Bates is ready for any occasion.

The purse is a metaphor for Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. The author describes her as being large, and the reader learns through the events of the story, she is a woman of action and conviction. She is prepared to address any situation. While she deals with Roger, she reveals things from her past, in essence she unpacks her purse. In the end, she opens it to give him money for the shoes he dreamed of; the shoes he craved badly enough to commit a crime. Although the purse is an icon of her size and strength, it also symbolic of her kindness to Roger.

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