In Thank You M'am, what does the dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones, as well as their actions, reveal about their character traits?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Thank You, M'am by Langston Hughes, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones' actions speak volumes about the type of person she is. She is not afraid; she will not accept bad behavior and she feels a moral obligation to anyone she comes into contact with. In Roger's case, she recognizes that he does not need punishing for attempting to steal her purse but he needs the kindness of another person, with no ulterior motive, to drive him towards being a better person himself. She refuses to judge Roger, as is apparent when she says, "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get" but she makes it clear that that is no excuse for making bad decisions. She asks Roger, when he tries to get away from her, "Was I bothering you when I turned that corner?" Now that she has an opportunity to make a difference in Roger's life, she intends to take it.

Roger's actions reveal that he lacks a role model and does want to face the consequences of his actions. He wants Mrs. Jones to let him go and he will try and squirm his way out of it if he can because he does not trust her or anyone else. However, once inside Mrs. Jones's home, Roger's attitude and his lack of trust change, and when presented with an opportunity to run, he does not; he washes his face and even offers to run an errand which reveals that his outlook is changing. 

Mrs. Jones's ultimate show of faith in Roger when she gives him the $10 with one simple instruction, to "behave yourself" shows that she believes in second chances  and has no agenda but a simple wish for Roger. Roger's response and his understanding that it is inadequate after what she has done, shows that Roger has learnt his lesson and the reader believes that Roger will really try to live up to Mrs. Jones's expectations.