Why did the writer choose "Thank You, M'am" as the title for this story?
The words of the title, "Thank You, M'am," are from the final words uttered by Roger to Mrs. Jones, and they impart the deep meaning of his encounter with her. The narrator makes two comments relevant to the meaning of the words "Thank you, m'am" that illuminate why "Thank You, M'am" is the title of the story: once in her home, Roger no longer wants Mrs. Jones to mistrust him, and, at their parting, he wants to say something else to her, but can't.
Roger at first is terrified of Mrs. Jones, who kicks him in the seat of his blue jeans, "right square in his blue-jeaned sitter"; who picks him up and shakes him by the "shirt front," marching off "dragging the frightened boy behind her"; and who drags him up the street with "a half-nelson about his neck." When faced with a choice between a sink and an open door, he wants to run! "Roger looked at the door—looked at the woman—looked at the door--...."!
But instead of running, he chooses the sink and a washed face: he "went to the sink." As their "contact" progresses, he chooses to comb his hair and to sit where he knows she can see him, and he chooses to listen to her and share her meal and "ten-cent cake" with her--without running. Along with these choices, he changes in his attitude toward her and wants her to trust him.
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.
When she hands him the ten dollars for the "blue suede shoes," along with the admonition that he would behave himself "from here on in," he knows she is someone whose admonitions he would do well to follow in life.
When it comes time for them to part, with Mrs. Jones calling him "son" ("I wish you would behave yourself, son, from here on in"), Roger deeply feels the impact of the gift and the chance at a different kind of life that she has given him. He wants to say something expressive of his understanding and change of heart--to say "something else other than 'Thank you, m'am'"--but cannot manage more than to utter his "Thank you": "He barely managed to say 'Thank you'...."
The boy wanted to say something else other than "Thank you, m’am" to Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, but he couldn’t do so as he turned at the barren stoop and looked back at the large woman in the door.
The title "Thank You, M'am" is representative of the deep change of heart wrought by Roger's "contact" with Mrs. Jones, who it seems is right in saying that, because of their "contact," he would remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.
"But you put yourself in contact with me," said the woman. "If you think that that contact is not going to last awhile, you got another thought coming. When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones."
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