Thank You Ma'am Theme

What is the theme in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes?

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Angie Waters eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Thank You, M'am by Langston Hughes, the reader becomes aware of the self-respect to which Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones holds herself and everyone she comes into contact with. She sets her expectations high and can think of no reason to behave in an unseemly manner, even in desperate circumstances, making trust an important theme of this short story. Luella is both shocked by and sympathetic to Roger's plight, and she does not let anyone or anything get the better of her: "Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?" she asks Roger after stopping him from stealing her purse. 

Instead of judging Roger, she immediately accepts some form of responsibility for him and suggests he should do the same:

"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?"

The theme of self-respect continues throughout and is apparent from Luella's words and treatment of Roger and her understanding that, at first, he will run...

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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