In Thank You, M'am, why does Luella tell Roger so much about her life?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Thank You M'am by Langston Hughes, Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones is on her way home from work in the late evening when a boy, Roger, tries to steal her "pocketbook." He falls over in his haste to get away and Luella, a large but kindly woman, wastes no time in taking hold of the boy, noticing that he does not even have a clean face so is probably a little neglected. He certainly does not know the difference between right and wrong, much to Luella's dismay. She decides that it is her duty, at the very least "to wash your face" and marches home with the boy behind her, reminding him that he is the one who interrupted her evening.

Luella recognizes something in Roger with which she is familiar and, in order to make him relate better to her, she decides to tell him about herself. Rather than continue lecturing him, she wants, in a short space of time, to build his trust, feed him and ensure that he does not forget her, or more especially, her message. After he admits that he wants a new pair of blue suede shoes, she tell him that "I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son..." She does not go into detail because she knows that the boy is not interested in her past or what she may have done. She knows not to ask him too many questions, certainly not personal questions, as this will embarrass him. So talking about herself is less imposing and will not overwhelm him. Luella knows that this is the best way to engage with Roger, make him feel comfortable and ensure that he does learn something valuable from this experience. She is hopeful that her words, behavior and actions will encourage him to try to be a better person. 

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Thank You, M'am

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