Why does Mrs. Jones treat Roger the way she does in "Thank You, M'am?"

Mrs. Jones treats Roger the way she does in "Thank You, M'am" because she understands what it's like to go without something you really want. As a consequence, she develops great empathy towards Roger, which means that she doesn't turn him in to the police, though he tried to snatch her purse.



Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mrs. Jones treats Roger with kindness and compassion because she sympathizes with his difficult situation and knows firsthand the hardships of poverty he is experiencing. When Mrs. Jones grabs Roger's collar, she immediately recognizes that he is dirty, afraid, and alone. Instead of viewing him as a criminal and turning him in to the police, Mrs. Jones exercises perspective and sees him as a misguided, disadvantaged youth. One of the first things Mrs. Jones tells Roger is, "You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong." This comment illustrates Mrs. Jones's protective, motherly instincts, and the reader recognizes that she is interested in showing Roger an alternative way to live.

At her home, Mrs. Jones allows Roger to wash up and prepares a meal for him. During their conversation, Mrs. Jones says that she was young once and remembers what it was like to not have the things she wanted. She also admits to making wrong choices but does not judge Roger by his regrettable actions. Mrs. Jones was once in the same desperate situation and empathizes with Roger. She proceeds to exercise the Golden Rule by treating Roger the way she would have wanted to be treated if she were in his shoes.

Mrs. Jones more than likely suffered the consequences of her actions at a young age and wished that someone would have shown her sympathy. It is also possible that someone treated Mrs. Jones with similar compassion and that she is simply paying forward the good deed. Overall, Mrs. Jones hopes that her love, hospitality, and charity will influence Roger to make better life choices and avoid being arrested.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 9, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It's fair to say that most people in Mrs. Jones's position would've frog-marched Roger to the nearest police station in a heartbeat. After all, Roger has just tried to snatch Mrs. Jones's purse, and, as one can imagine, she's pretty upset about it.

But Mrs. Jones defies our expectations—and Roger's—by taking the young miscreant home with her and giving him a bite to eat. There are a number of reasons why she does this. First of all, she takes pity on the boy; she can see with her own eyes just how poor he is, how deprived he is of both material goods and parental care.

Mrs. Jones also seems willing to give Roger a second chance. She senses that this isn't a hardened criminal she's dealing with, but a desperate kid just trying to grab a few bucks to buy himself a decent pair of shoes.

More than anything else, though, Mrs. Jones treats Roger the way she does, with kindness, leniency, and understanding, because she knows what it's like to have to go without something you want. Back in the day, she too did things that she shouldn't have done. Because of this, she feels unable to judge Roger, let alone hand him over to the police.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 9, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mrs. Jones treats Roger kindly because she understands what he is going through.

Roger tries to steal Mrs. Jones’s purse, but instead of trying to call the police on him, she takes him home and makes him something to eat.  She is nice to him, because she realizes that he is just a sad boy with no one to look after him and nowhere to go, and she has been where he’s been.

Mrs. Jones seems aware when she looks at Roger that he has no one at home. 

 "Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?"

"No’m," said the boy.

Once she has him home, she treats him very kindly.  It is clear that she has empathy for him.  She probably grew up under similar circumstances, not having anyone at home. 

When the conversation comes around to why Roger stole, Mrs. Jones shares her situation and it is clear that she empathizes with Roger wanting something he did not have.

The woman was sitting on the day-bed. After a while she said, "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get."

… I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know…”

By the end of the conversation, Mrs. Jones has Roger’s trust, and he wants her to trust him.  He feels badly about what he has done, especially since she says he should have just asked for money, and he even asks her if she wants him to go to the store.  He clearly appreciates the mothering she is doing, telling him to wash his face and offering him food, and he also appreciates her opening up to him. 

Mrs. Jones seems to live alone, and she does not have any children.  Based on this example, she would be a good mother.  She is tough but firm, and she teaches Roger a good lesson about forgiveness and need.  She does not judge him, but instead takes care of him for an evening--which he needs more than new shoes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial