What actions demonstrate Mrs. Jones's confidence in the short story "Thank You, M'am"?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You will find several examples of textual evidence demonstrating Mrs. Jones’s confidence in Langston Hughes's short story “Thank You, M’am.”

In the exposition, Roger is unsuccessful in his attempt to steal Mrs. Jones's rather cumbersome pocketbook. Instead of running away or screaming for help, the self-assured Mrs. Jones gives him a swift kick and lifts him up by his shirt collar so she can confront him. In no uncertain terms, Mrs. Jones tells Roger she is bothered by his actions; she questions him and informs him in a pretty unforgettable way.

But the boy’s weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance so, instead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk, and his legs flew up. The large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.

Mrs. Jones's action of taking the errant boy into her home is another demonstration of confidence. Instead of calling the police after the initial confrontation, she drags him to her room, where she demonstrates respect for the boy’s situation by having him clean up, feeding him, and engaging him in conversation in which she alludes to details of her early life.

“I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know. So you set down while I fix us something to eat. You might run that comb through your hair so you will look presentable.”

She is so confident her treatment of Roger will influence his decisions that she leaves her pocketbook on the daybed while she turns away from him to cook dinner. At this point, Roger realizes he wants Mrs. Jones to trust him.

By being empathetic to Roger’s situation and showing him respect without demeaning him or his situation, Mrs. Jones demonstrates her self-confidence.

Read the study guide:
Thank You, M'am

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