In Thank You M'am by Langston Hughes, why does Mrs. Jones handle the situation the way she does? What was she trying to accomplish in doing so?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Thank You M'am, a short story by Langston Hughes, Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones is a hard-working and honest woman who is returning home from work when she is accosted by a young boy who tries to steal her purse. Mrs Jones prevents the boy from taking her purse, and rather than calling the police, she decides that she should take him home with her because it is apparent to her that he is unsupervised and there isn't even anyone "to tell you to wash your face." Mrs Jones is determined to teach the boy a lesson or at the very least send him home with a clean face and some food as he looks as if he may be a little neglected. She is compassionate and caring. 

Mrs Jones asks Roger why he tried to steal her purse and he eventually reveals that he really wants some "blue suede shoes." Rather than judge him harshly, Mrs Jones reveals through her actions that she understands him and sympathizes with him although he does not know that and she remains very firm with him. She admits that when she was younger "I wanted things I could not get" and she behaves the way she does because she identifies with Roger's situation although she frowns on his actions. 

When Roger leaves, Mrs Jones gives him the money for his shoes even though the reader knows that she probably cannot really afford to do so. She can only hope that he will at least learn some manners and she reminds him to behave himself. Perhaps her actions will teach Roger about the power of kindness and selflessness.