In his short story, "Thank You M'am," what did Hughes mean by the statement "...a large purse that had everything in it except for a hammer and nails?"

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In his short story, "Thank You M'am," Hughes uses this description of the purse to better give the reader an image of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones herself. "She was a large woman with a large purse." Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones was also a hardworking woman, and she would have had a large, utilitarian handbag. It would not be filled with fingernail files, perfume, or cosmetics. It would be filled with the accoutrements of her daily life bus tokens, bank books, lifesaver candy, and other simple, down to earth items (and could, if she chose, have handled a hammer and nails as well). These would be items that represent this down to earth woman. Nor was her handbag new. In fact, it was old and worn as is indicated when "The strap broke with the single tug the boy gave it from behind." Had it not been old and warn, the strap would not have broken, as Roger was small enough that she could pick him up and shake him. 

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