In Thank You, M'am, what is the woman's attitude towards the boy and how does the boy view the woman?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this short story Thank You M'am, Langston Hughes wastes no time in introducing Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. As soon as Roger tries to steal Mrs. Jones's purse, but falls when the strap of the purse snaps, she wastes no time in restraining him and taking matters into her own hands. At first, the reader is unsure as to what she may do with the boy and the boy certainly does not trust her. However, it soon becomes clear that Mrs. Jones is a compassionate and caring woman who refuses to judge Roger on the basis of his most recent, failed attempts to steal her purse. She is observant and intuitively knows that there is a lot more to Roger's story than him being a delinquent and she intends to put things right, or at least teach him a valuable lesson; not, surprisingly by way of punishment, but through her kindness and ability to reach out to him to the point that Roger comes to trust her and hopefully will not go to such lengths again, even if he desperately wants something he cannot afford like the "blue suede shoes" which have caused his current predicament.

Mrs. Jones feels a certain responsibility towards Roger, even insisting that he should wash his face just like she would if her were her own child. She knows that he probably spends a lot of time alone and most likely does not get the parental guidance or supervision he needs. Therefore, she takes it upon herself to show him that his actions are not acceptable and that there are better ways of getting what you want. Roger is very surprised when she suggests that he should have simply asked her for the money for his beloved shoes.  Mrs. Jones can relate to Roger and tells him that she "wanted things I could not get. "Her openness affects Roger and he begins to trust her and is intrigued by her so that he does not "run,run, run" when he has the opportunity to. Roger even feels the need to offer to return her kindness by running an errand for her. The two part with no expectations of each other but hopefully a lesson learned. Mrs. Jones's attitude has made all the difference for Roger and will hopefully encourage him to emulate just such an outlook himself as he is certainly impressed by Mrs. Jones's behavior.