What might Roger's behavior suggest about his future potential in Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, M'am"?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Langston Hughes's short story "Thank you, M'am," Roger is so stunned by Mrs. Jones's actions that he can barely speak, which signifies just how much she has positively influenced him.

The first moment in which he is too shocked to speak is when she shows compassion by confiding in him that when she was young, she was equally in need and "wanted things [she] could not get." He is further unable to speak when, contrary to what he expects her to say, she doesn't say she didn't rob people to get what she wanted but rather confides that she too did things she was ashamed of.

At that point, he feels a need to be trusted by her and sits in a corner of the room where she can see him, far away from her purse. Yet, he is still unable to speak much. Instead, during their shared dinner, she is the one who does the conversing by telling him all about where she works.

His greatest moment of stunned near-silence is when she hands him the 10 dollars and tells him to buy the blue suede shoes he wants, warning him to "behave" himself in the future. He is so stunned that he can barely say, "Thank you, m'am," as she closes the door to her rented room.

We know from his stunned near-silence and his desire to be trusted that Mrs. Jones's actions significantly influenced him; her actions moved him so much that he is barely able to speak, just as one might be moved to silence in the presence of God. For the first time in his life, he was shown empathy, compassion, and care, which will help him in the future to think twice about the people he meets. While before he distrusted everyone because of his situation, he now sees that there truly are some goodhearted people in the world. Seeing that there are goodhearted people in the world will help him to become goodhearted himself. Due to her compassionate influence, in the future, he is likely to do just as she wants him to do, "behave" himself and emulate her compassionate actions.