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

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.