What are some differences and similarities between "Thank You M'am" and "Mother to Son"

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Langston Hughes uses different literary forms to project the same message. “Thank You, M’am” is a short story while “Mother to Son” is a poem. In both examples there is a strong female figure encouraging a young man to step up and not give in to life’s circumstances. In addition, both females reveal difficulties in their own lives. In the poem, the mother reminds her son with these words, “Well, son, I'll tell you: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.” In “Thank You, M’am,” Mrs. Jones tells Roger that she did things in her a past that she is not proud of but her actions show that she moved forward to a better way of life. Both women encourage the boys to keep trying. One with her words, one with her actions. The mother instills fortitude while Mrs. Jones instills trust.

The poem uses metaphor, informal language, and imagery while the short story is a narrative, which includes dialogue between the characters. Other than the difference in literary form, the relationship of the women to the boys is different. In the poem, a mother is speaking to her son which infers a long standing relationship. In the short story, Mrs. Jones and Roger meet by chance when he attempts to steal her purse. They do not have a background but she seems to understand his circumstances of being poor, unfed, and unwashed. She does not seem surprised when he tells her there is no one home at his house even though it is late in the evening.