Why does Roger wash his face instead of running in "Thank You, M'am"?

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Roger does not run away because he knows that Mrs. Jones will most likely catch him before he makes it out of her house. Also, he knows that there are other roomers in the big house so that it would be very easy for the others to come in to help Mrs. Jones should he think to cause further trouble.

Note that the text mentions that Mrs. Jones is a “large woman,” who has so far managed to “kick Roger in his sitter, and then shake him until his teeth rattled” before dragging him along the streets to her house where she makes him wash his dirty face. She manages to counter Roger’s attack single-handedly, without any help from anybody. This should mean that she is a physically strong woman who can take care of herself. Thus, when she tells Roger to wash his face in her sink, he does exactly as she says. Later, she questions the boy on why he had wanted to steal her pocketbook, prepares a meal that they share, and gives the boy ten dollars to buy a pair of “blue suede shoes” —the reason he gives for wanting to steal her money. She also reminds him not to steal from others again.

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In Langston Hughes' short story "Thank You M'am," a teen boy named Roger attempts to steal the purse of a large lady named Mrs. Jones. Roger claims that he is stealing the purse because he would like to buy some "blue suede shoes." Like most teens, Roger is obviously very much aware of how he appears to the world and wearing such trendy shoes would make him seem worldly and important rather than poor and insignificant. His unsuccessful attempt at stealing the purse leads to the unforeseen events which follow. Instead of hauling him off to the police, Mrs. Jones drags Roger to her modest apartment, insisting that he wash his face. When they get inside the "large kitchenette furnished room" Mrs. Jones leaves the door open while pointing to the sink where the boy can wash.

The boy quickly contemplates his choices: "Roger looked at the door—looked at the woman—looked at the door—and went to the sink." For possibly the first time in his life someone is actually taking an interest him. It is a crucial point in the story and a crucial point in Roger's life. Had he run, he may have been committed to a life of crime and never again accepted the overtures of friendship which Mrs. Jones is now offering. He very much wants to be acknowledged and cared for. It was a principal reason why he was willing to steal in order to buy a pair of flashy shoes. He admits that there is no one at home at his house and, when Mrs. Jones tells him she will share her dinner with him, he becomes even more willing to please her even though he has ample opportunity to run. Because Mrs. Jones has treated him as a human being Roger is motivated to prove that he is worthy of her kindness and trust:

The woman got up and went behind the screen. The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the daybed. 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.

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