What details in "Thank You M'am" indicate that the boy is basically honest?

Expert Answers
beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank You M’am,” Roger shows that he can be trusted after making the mistake of attempting to snatch Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’ purse. Roger, the young teenager, fails as he tries to swipe the purse. His intent was to steal the purse to get money to buy a new pair of shoes. Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones decides that she will teach him a lesson that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. After determining that he has not eaten supper or bathed, she maintains her grip on him and guides him back to her rooming house. While in her room, she has him wash up and she moves behind a screen that separates the room into two parts. He looks at the door to make a run for it but does not, nor does he make a second attempt to steal her purse. In fact, he positions himself so that the woman can see him out of the corner of her eye while she cooks their dinner.

In another corner of the room behind a screen was a gas plate and an icebox. Mrs. Jones got up and went behind the screen. The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the day bed. But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to.

He even offers to run to the store for her. She gives him the chance to go buy sweet milk for hot chocolate but he tells that what she has will be fine. He does not take the chance to leave, instead he stays to eat and listens carefully to what she tells him about her own life. He wants her to believe that he can be trusted, and she wants to let him know that she understands his circumstances.

When he is leaving, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones gives him money to purchase new shoes. He is so overcome that he can barely thank her showing that he was contrite for his earlier actions.