What is the point of view in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The point of view of the story is that of a third person omniscient narrator, mostly from Roger’s perspective.  A third person omniscient narrator does not focus on only one character.  It also does not let you inside a character’s head as if that character were telling the story, such as a character saying “I was” instead of “he was.”

The very beginning of the story describes Roger trying to steal Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’s purse, which is very heavy.

She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails. It had a long strap, and she carried it slung across her shoulder. It was about eleven o’clock at night, and she was walking alone, when a boy ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. 

This part is from Mrs. Jones’s point of view, because it describes how a boy runs up to her.  You can tell it is third person because of the use of “she” and “her” instead of “I” and “my.”  The story then shifts to his perspective, which is one of the ways that you can tell that it is third person omniscient and not third person limited. 

The strap broke with the single tug the boy gave it from behind. But the boy’s weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance so, instead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk, and his legs flew up. 

We went from Mrs. Jones' perspective of her walking to Roger’s perspective of trying to steal the purse and then falling.  This jumble of perspectives is third person omniscient.  In some ways it is more impersonal, but in some ways it adds interest because we know at least a bit of what each character is thinking and feeling.

Read the study guide:
Thank You, M'am

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