Why did Mrs. Jones think the boy was hungry in "Thank You, M'am"?

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In the short story, “Thank You, M’am,” a young boy named Roger attempts to steal the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones as she walks home from work late at night. As Roger grabs her purse, he falls over and she proceeds to kick him. She notices that he has dirt on his face and questions why he is out late at night. The boy denies that he is hungry, and only states that he needs money to buy blue suede shoes.

Instead of calling the police, Mrs. Jones carries him to her home and tells him to wash his face. She realizes that blue suede shoes are considered a luxury in this poor neighborhood, and that Roger probably is hungry and needs money to buy food. She offers him lima beans and ham. Even though the boy feels shamed, he agrees to sit down with her and eat dinner instead of running away.

In a spirit of forgiveness, Mrs. Jones offers him food, kindness, and talks with him. After they also share dessert cake, she asks that he behave and gives him money to buy the shoes. She tells him that he can use the money for anything. She gives him a choice, so he can feel more in control of his life. Roger thanks her and she shuts her door. She doesn’t have to be forgiving. Yet, she offers Roger a hot meal, teaches him about having manners and gives him the opportunity to make good decisions.

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In Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank You, M’am," young Roger attempts to steal the formidable Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’ pocketbook as she is walking home home from her job late one evening. Roger is unsuccessful as Mrs. Jones grabs him and refuses to let him go.She specifically asks him if he is hungry, which he denies. She further questions him about his living situation to determine why such a young man would want to steal a purse. When he tells her that there is no one home at his house she is astute enough to know, from the looks of him and from his poor decision, that he has neither eaten nor washed up. She drags the sweating boy to her home.

Then we’ll eat,” said the woman, “I believe you’re hungry—or been hungry—to try to snatch my pockekbook.”

Mrs. Jones understands life on the mean streets of Harlem during that era, and she believes one of the reasons Roger tries to snatch the pocketbook is to get money for food.

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