What are the major character traits for Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones in the story, "Thank You, M'am?"

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A character trait tells a reader more about a character's personality than it does about physical appearance. However, it is often descriptions of physical appearance that help the reader understand the character and his or her unique characteristics. In "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes, Hughes immediately describes Mrs. Jones as a "large woman." Even her name, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones suggests she has a strong personality. The contents of her purse also reinforce this visual image that Hughes creates of an imposing woman who has high expectations of those around her and will accept no excuses for bad behavior, regardless of circumstances. She does however, accept her own role in helping Roger to have a better understanding of right and wrong, even though he is a complete stranger. 

Mrs. Jones is genuine and concerned to the point of mothering Roger. It obviously comes naturally to her and the nurturing is instinctive. This further reveals her compassion and refusal to judge others based on isolated incidents. She sees Roger as a boy who is in need of some advice and guidance and who could easily be badly influenced, but at the same time who could benefit from her own influence. This shows that she has the strength of her own convictions. Mrs. Jones is therefore kind, compassionate, intuitive, patient, strong, self-assured and is a very good role model for Roger. 

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Thank You, Ma'am," Mrs. Jones is not afraid of danger. When Roger tries to snatch her purse, for example, she does not react with fear. In fact, she takes hold of Roger and shakes him until his teeth rattle. She is not the sort of woman who is easily intimidated. She is ready to face a challenge head on.

Secondly, Mrs. Jones is non-judgmental and kind. Instead of judging Roger as a thief and reporting him to the police, she takes him home, feeds him, and gives him the money. This act of kindness comes as a shock to Roger, suggesting that he is not accustomed to such positive treatment.

Finally, Mrs. Jones is forgiving and believes in giving people a second chance. Perhaps, this is because she had a troubled childhood, just like Roger. This is implied through the following line:

After a while, she said, “I were young once and I wanted things I could not get.”