What is interesting about the physical contrast of Mrs. Jones and Roger in the story "Thank you Ma'am"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is interesting that Mrs. Jones is physically larger and stronger than Roger because she "turns the tables" on Roger and because she is also figuratively a bigger person, being morally stronger.

"Thank you, M'am" by Langston Hughes is a delightful story because of the edifying ending, but also because of its humor. For, the reader can just picture little Roger tipping over as he tries to hang on to Mrs. Jones's purse. And, then Mrs. Jones literally attacks him:

...the large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.

Roger certainly has to be humiliated by being so helpless at the hands of a woman he must have believed an easy target just moments before. So, Mrs. Jones gets "the upper hand" on Roger both physically and psychologically. But, after winning the physical struggle with Roger, she proves to be a very compassionate and charitable person. Exhibiting motherly traits, Mrs. Jones asks Roger, "Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?” When Roger responds in the negative, she replies, "Then it will get washed this evening" and takes him to her rented room where he can wash his face while she prepares a meal for them to share.

Roger is so moved by her goodness that he comes to desire her trust in him; moreover, when she gives him her hard-earned ten dollars so that he can buy the shoes he desires, he is so touched by her charity and love that all he can say is "Thank you."

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