What techniques of characterization does Hughes employ in creating the character of Mrs. Jones?
Langston Hughes uses several techniques to characterize Mrs. Jones. First, she is characterized physically as a large and imposing woman. At the beginning of the story, Hughes writes, "She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails." Mrs. Jones's size gives her an advantage over Roger, and she is described as being physical towards him: "Mrs. Jones stopped, jerked him around in front of her, put a half-nelson about his neck, and continued to drag him up the street."
Beyond just categorizing her physically, a more significant technique that Hughes uses is characterizing Mrs. Jones through her actions and through her words. Because she doesn't turn Roger in to the police but instead takes him in to feed him, we come to see her as a mentor or even a mother figure. When she asks, “Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?” we can see that she's already got a sense of concern for Roger and an understanding of why he tried to steal her purse.
She goes on to say, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?” and as she drags Roger home against his will, we can see that she is serving in the role of a temporary caretaker. We see this role further play out back in Mrs. Jones's apartment when she tries to teach Roger a lesson by telling him, “Well, you didn’t have to snatch my pocketbook to get some suede shoes,” said Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. “You could of asked me.”
First through physical description, and mostly through her actions and words, Hughes characterizes Mrs. Jones as a dominant and intimidating but kind and motherly figure.