Thank You, M'am Questions and Answers
by Langston Hughes

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What are Mrs. Jones' character traits in the story "Thank You, Ma'am"? 

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Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The first thing we learn about Mrs. Jones is that she's as tough as nails and very brave. Most women, after an attempted mugging, would scream or run away. Mrs. Jones, on the other hand, successfully fights back and inflicts pain on Roger, her attacker.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we learn about Mrs Jones is that, in her tough way, she is an extremely compassionate woman. Having assumed that her attacker must have done what he did because he was hungry, she frog-marches him to her home, where she gives him a meal. It is clear that Roger, by this time, has realized on some level that she is a compassionate woman. When he has the chance to run away, he chooses not to do so.

When Mrs Jones discovers that Roger attempted to rob her so that he would be able to buy a pair of shoes, she admits that she also has made mistakes in the past. This, coupled with the fact that she eventually gives Roger the money he needs to go and buy the shoes, tells us that she regrets the mistakes she made and doesn't want Roger to repeat his mistakes.

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lordcou eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the short story "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes, Mrs. Jones, the main character, demonstrates that she is a tough, yet sincere and honest woman. One of my favorite descriptions of her comes from the very first sentence. Hughes writes, "She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails." 

Immediately after Roger attempted to steal that large purse, Mrs. Jones asked, "Now aren't you ashamed of yourself?" Following her line of questioning, it was clear that Roger just wanted to be let off the hook, but she insisted on teaching him a lesson. This shows that she is tough (but) because she wanted to ensure that Roger would learn from his mistakes and never steal again. 

Just before dragging Roger to her house, Mrs. Jones said, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong." When they arrived at her home, she made him clean himself up a bit and even made him some dinner. This shows her as sincere because she almost becomes a motherly figure to Roger; this is especially important, because we learn that he doesn't have any family. By being a role model, Mrs. Jones is one step closer to achieving her goal of ensuring that Roger doesn't make a mistake again. 

Towards the end of the story, Mrs. Jones admits to Roger, "I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know.” Through this revelation, Mrs. Jones continues to be a role model to Roger by showing him that he doesn't have to continue living the way he does. This makes her an honest person because she didn't have to admit to her past mistakes to him, but by doing so, she was able to connect to him on another level. 

While we know Roger never sees Mrs. Jones again, I think it's safe to bet that she had an influence on the rest of his life due to her tough, compassionate mannerisms. 

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