What was the woman's initial reaction when the boy tried to snatch her purse in the short story "Thank You, Ma'am?"

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the boy in the short story “Thank You, Ma’am” tries to steal Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’ purse, Mrs. Jones’ first reaction is physical.  She uses physical force against him, apparently to punish him and to prevent him from getting away.

At the beginning of the story, the young man tries to take Mrs. Jones’ purse but falls down while doing so.  Her reaction is to turn around and kick him in the behind.  She then picks him up and shakes him vigorously.  Here is the passage in the story that shows this.  It says that, after he fell down,

the large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.

Presumably, she kicks him out of anger since kicking him will not necessarily prevent him from escaping.  I assume that she then picks him up and shakes him partly to punish him further and partly to prevent him from escaping.  This physical reaction is her first reaction when he tries to steal her purse.

Read the study guide:
Thank You, M'am

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