In "Thank you M'am" by Langston Hughes, when Roger enters Mrs. Jones’s room, she leaves the door open. Why?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Roger is the teenage protagonist of "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes, and when we first meet him he is trying to steal a woman's purse. That woman is Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, an imposing African American woman who promptly sets him on his back end--without ever letting go of her purse, of course. 

When she looks at the boy more closely, she can tell that he is not being well taken care of, as he is rather dirty and a bit unkempt. Though the boy wants to leave, she is unwilling to let him off the hook so easily, so she makes him go home with her. 

She thinks he tried to steal her purse for money, but he tells her that he just wanted to buy a pair of blue suede shoes. Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones understands wanting things she cannot have, and she has some things in her past of which she is not proud. Clearly she decides to give the boy a chance--presumably the same kind of chance someone once gave her.

When she goes to fix some dinner, she leaves the door open and her pocketbook on the bed. She obviously does it it in order to demonstrate her trust in him, and it works.

The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the day-bed. But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now.

The woman gives the boy ten dollars for the shoes; even more importantly, she gives him her trust. 


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JSK | eNotes Newbie

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Thank you very much! It was very helpful.