What is the foreshadowing and symbolism in the short story "Thank You M'am"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Foreshadowing is a hint at future events, and symbolism is when an object or persons stands for something.

One example of foreshadowing is the first sentence of the story, which describes Mrs. Jones.

She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails. (p. 1)

There are two things foreshadowing here.  First, she is a large woman.  This hints to the reader that she can hold her own, and she in fact does against Roger.  Second, her purse is mentioned in the first line.  This tells us that something is going to happen with the purse.

Another example of foreshadowing is her grabbing him.  We know this is no ordinary purse snatching.  It foreshadows her continued involvement in him.

An example of symbolism is the blue suede shoes. The boy steals the purse because he wants the shoes.

"Well, you didn’t have to snatch my pocketbook to get some suede shoes," said Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. "You could of asked me." (p. 3)

There are two significant aspects to the shoes.  First of all, they represent material possessions the boy cannot have.  Yet the shoes are also a bond between the two, a bond over wanting what you don’t have access to.  The boy is poor, and has no one to look after him and teach him right from wrong.  Mrs. Jones does that.

Another symbol is the meal.  Although it is just lima beans and ham with milk, it demonstrates several things.  First, she cares about him.  Sharing food, especially when you’re poor, means you care.  Second of all, she trusts him.  She goes to make dinner, and he does not try to run.  He wants to be trusted now.