Introduction to Thank You, M'am

“Thank You, Ma’am” is a short story by Langston Hughes. It was first published in 1958, during the midst of the civil rights movement. Hughes is notable as a prevalent Harlem Renaissance writer, and his stories continued to focus on the lives and experiences of Black Americans as society moved towards racial integration. His works emphasized the need to take pride in being Black, while also rejecting the scorn often leveled at white society. “Thank You, Ma’am” is a prime example of Hughes’s belief in the importance of Black solidarity, as is especially evident when the formidable Luella Bates Washington Jones counsels Roger about dignity and manners.

“Thank You, Ma’am” is, at its heart, a story about kindness and respect. Although Roger tries to steal from Luella Bates Washington Jones, she decides to help him rather than dismiss or punish him. Despite Roger’s fears, she does not view him as an irredeemable delinquent; instead, she recognizes that he lacks guidance, and she takes it upon herself to give him a good meal and teach him manners. Their shared background is made apparent by Hughes’s use of dialect, and their similarity in speech builds an unspoken sense of camaraderie and understanding between them. Though Roger never sees her again, it seems likely that Luella Bates Washington Jones helped alter the course of his life: rather than meeting his attempted delinquency with retribution and judgment, she shows him kindness and offers him the chance to reconsider his options.

A Brief Biography of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes (1901–1967) was an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance, a period during the 1920s and 1930s that was characterized by an artistic flowering of Black American writers, musicians, and visual artists. Langston Hughes contributed to the era by bringing the rhythm of jazz, the vernacular of his people, and the social concerns of the day to his verse. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” in his first collection, The Weary Blues (1926), looks at the past as a source of pride. Other poems capture the rhythm of music and the beat of language, such as “Juke Box Love Song.” Still others, like “Theme for English B” and “I, Too, Sing America,” simultaneously express the desire for an integrated world and a warning to those who try to keep Black people subservient.

Frequently Asked Questions about Thank You, M'am

Thank You, M'am

In a story, the climax is the moment of greatest tension and takes place just before the resolution. If successfully deployed, the climax should represent the dramatic high point of the story. In...

Latest answer posted November 24, 2020, 11:33 am (UTC)

5 educator answers

Thank You, M'am

At the beginning of "Thank You, M'am," Roger is a thief who preys on an older woman. Because he is fairly young and still not very physically imposing, Roger's attempt to mug Mrs. Luella Bates...

Latest answer posted November 25, 2020, 11:29 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

Thank You, M'am

"Thank You, M'am" was first published in 1958 and appears to be set in the present or recent past. Roger wants a pair of blue suede shoes, which were fashionable in the 1950s and were even the...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2020, 12:24 pm (UTC)

7 educator answers

Thank You, M'am

I would argue that two of the main themes in this story are generosity and the transformation of young Roger, based on his encounter with Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. Roger is grateful to...

Latest answer posted November 26, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones encounters Roger when he attempts to rob her. Although she could have reacted in anger and could have even brought in the authorities to punish Roger, Mrs. Jones...

Latest answer posted November 26, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

The paths of Roger and Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones originally collide because Roger attempts to mug her. Mrs. Jones hangs on to her purse as Roger falls to the ground, and she proceeds to...

Latest answer posted November 25, 2020, 11:10 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

In Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, M'am," Roger is presented as a poor, hungry, and possibly neglected African American boy. He attempts to rob a woman named Mrs. Luella Bates Washington...

Latest answer posted November 25, 2020, 12:45 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

It's not immediately obvious that there's an overall message or moral in "Thank You, M'am," but the most likely candidate appears to be that it's possible for people to change their ways if you...

Latest answer posted November 25, 2020, 11:27 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

When Roger tries to steal Mrs. Jones's purse, he succumbs to temptation. A poor neglected boy living in penury and squalor, Roger sees the opportunity to snatch Mrs. Jones's purse and make some...

Latest answer posted November 25, 2020, 1:16 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

I would argue that Mrs. Jones teaches Roger a few good lessons. First, she teaches him that mugging a woman in the street is not going to be as easy as he had thought. While he fails to overpower...

Latest answer posted November 25, 2020, 11:19 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

In Langston Hughes's celebrated short story "Thank You, M'am," a poor, misguided teenager named Roger attempts to steal Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones's purse in order to gain enough money to...

Latest answer posted November 24, 2020, 11:20 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

In the story, Mrs. Jones gives Roger a swift kick after he tries to snatch her purse. She gives him a brief scolding and then takes the teenager back to her house. There, she orders Roger to wash...

Latest answer posted November 24, 2020, 3:54 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

There are several moral lessons that are revealed through the conflict between Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones and Roger. Although Roger attempts to rob an older woman, his characterization...

Latest answer posted November 24, 2020, 11:23 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

In the grime that disfigures Roger's face, you can tell a lot about what kind of life he leads. One can reasonably surmise that this is a boy whose home life is disfigured by considerable poverty...

Latest answer posted November 24, 2020, 11:16 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

In "Thank You, M'am," Roger is a young boy who tries to snatch the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. She surprises him by scolding him for his efforts and then takes him to her house for...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2020, 11:20 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

In Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, M'am," Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones is walking alone at eleven o'clock at night. When her purse is snatched, she has the presence of mind first to...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

A story's tone is the way in which the author approaches the subject and overall message of the literary work. In "Thank You, M'am," Roger is a young boy who makes the mistake of trying to rob Mrs....

Latest answer posted November 23, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

Despite the fraught nature of their initial encounter, a bond of trust appears to have developed between Roger and Mrs. Jones. Having dragged him back to her home, Mrs. Jones has shown that she...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2020, 11:15 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Thank You, M'am

In the first paragraph of "Thank You, M'am," Langston Hughes uses hyperbole and auditory imagery to create a vivid picture of the encounter between Roger and Mrs. Jones. The purse Roger tries to...

Latest answer posted November 24, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

5 educator answers

Thank You, M'am

Near the end of "Thank You, M'am," Roger offers to go to the store to fetch some milk "or something" for Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. Earlier in the narrative, he was trying to escape from...

Latest answer posted November 26, 2020, 11:38 am (UTC)

3 educator answers
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Summary