What do Roger and Mrs. Jones learn from each other in Langston Hughes's "Thank You, M'am"?  

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, M'am," Roger learns for the first time in his life that there truly are caring, compassionate people in the world, whereas Mrs. Jones is reminded of her past. Through her memories of her past, Mrs. Jones learns that there is often a need to show care and compassion.

At the start of the story, Mrs. Jones reacts the same way any woman in her position who has the upper hand would react. Since she is much larger than Roger, she is able to kick him, drag him to his feet, and shake him "until his teeth rattled." Her actions show that, like anyone in her position, she is angry. However, the more she gets a closer look at Roger, the more her attitude changes. Specifically, the moment she notices that his "face is dirty" and learns that he has no one at home to remind him to wash his face, she realizes he is neglected and, though he may have a home, his real home is largely the streets. Mrs. Jones knows that, like many impoverished kids, Roger is doing his utmost to survive on the streets. The moment she has this realization, her attitude changes from anger to understanding and compassion.

Mrs. Jones demonstrates her understanding and compassion by bringing him home to get him cleaned up and give him dinner. She further shows compassion by confessing that when she was young, she, too, "wanted things [she] could not get" and did things she is ashamed of, a memory that reminds her there is a need to show people just like her compassion and mercy.

When Roger hears this, he learns he is not really as alone as he thinks he is, that others have been in his same position. But Roger learns his greatest lesson from Mrs. Jones the moment she hands him a ten dollar bill and tells him to go buy the blue suede shoes he wants. It's at this moment he learns that there truly are caring, compassionate people in the world, people willing to help, a realization the reader can predict will change his life.

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Thank You, M'am

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