Discussion Topic

Exploring the characters, motivations, relationship dynamics, and thematic development between Mrs. Jones and Roger in "Thank You, M'am"

Summary:

In "Thank You, M'am," Mrs. Jones is a strong, compassionate woman who catches Roger trying to steal her purse. Instead of punishing him, she takes him home, feeds him, and teaches him about trust and respect. Roger, initially motivated by desperation, is influenced by Mrs. Jones' kindness and begins to understand the value of making better choices. Their relationship highlights themes of empathy, redemption, and the impact of positive role models.

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What do Mrs. Jones and Roger have in common in "Thank You, M'am"?

After Roger tries to steal Mrs. Jones's purse, telling her that he wanted to buy himself a pair of blue suede shoes, she claims to have personal knowledge of wanting things that she could not have. He expects her to say that she did not steal people's pocketbooks to get those things, though. However, she does not and will not say that, suggesting that she might have actually engaged in that kind of illegal behavior when she was young, like Roger. She also knows what questions to ask Roger in order to find out if he has anyone taking care of him. He does not. Mrs. Jones seems to anticipate this too, indicating that she has been in this position as well. In the end, then, it seems that she and Roger have quite a bit in common!

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What does the dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about their characters?

The dialogue shared between Mrs. Jones and Roger in Langston Hughes's "Thank You, Ma'am" develops characterization by revealing the hardships both characters have suffered.

One of the most revealing pieces of dialogue occurs when Mrs. Jones asks Roger, "Ain't you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?" to which Roger gives the equally revelatory reply, "No'm." This exchange tells the reader that, like many of Hughes's race, Roger is growing up on the streets, abandoned. If Roger has any parents, they are not a dominant part of his life, most likely because they must work endlessly at low-paying jobs to make ends meet. The absence of parents leaves Roger to fend for himself out on the streets. It is because Mrs. Jones sees Roger is fending for himself that she takes compassion on him and takes him home for some care and dinner.

In her tiny one-room rented flat, a sign that Mrs. Jones too is also struggling with poverty, Roger explains he tried to steal her purse to buy some blue suede shoes. Mrs. Jones says something in reply that tells us exactly why she is able to feel compassion for Roger:

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.

This dialogue exchange tells us that Mrs. Jones has been in the exact same situation as Roger, abandoned, alone, and struggling with poverty, the poverty that is an inevitable part of the racism and segregation Hughes spoke out against in his writings. Because she has been in the exact same boat Roger has been in and overcome her situation, at least to the point she is no longer driven to steal, she knows that showing empathy and compassion will help guide Roger on the correct path. The empathy and compassion she extends to Roger lets him know, for the first time in his life, that he's not really alone, that help does exist, which will guide him in making correct choices when he feels he needs help in the future.

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What does the dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about their characters?

To a large extent, once both are inside Mrs. Jones' apartment, the dialogue is one sided.  For his part, Roger sits and listens, not really saying much of anything in terms of adding to the dialogue.  In this, Hughes brings out that even the most criminal of youth can respond to some level of mentoring or nurturing.  Roger is disarmed by the generosity and kindness that is shown to him.  He recognizes the moment and does not repudiate it.  At the same time, Mrs. Jones has a past.  This is brought out in the discussion. She has "done things."  Hughes is brilliant in leaving it at that.  Yet, from her dialogue with Roger, Hughes creates the impression that she understands that in making changes to her present and offering an opportunity for Roger to make changes in his, the mistakes of the past and the cycle they create can be broken.  A new reality can emerge, so that when Roger is outside her apartment, this new conception of reality can become something on which action is taken.  The dialogue between both brings out the past and present in both characters, and how both Roger and Mrs. Jones are left to face the future after their interaction with one another.

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What does the dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about their characters?

Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones is a pretty fearless lady. After all, not many women (especially older women) would react to an attempted mugging this way:

Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.

After that the woman said, “Pick up my pocketbook, boy, and give it here.” She still held him. But she bent down enough to permit him to stoop and pick up her purse. Then she said, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?”

Mrs. Jones will not be intimidated. She also does not plan to let this boy get away with what he's done, either via a physical escape or without a careful examination of his character. Mrs. Jones sees an opportunity for corrective intervention and seizes it immediately.

She's also not a vindictive woman; she handles Roger with a stern but concerned sense of guidance. When she takes him home with her, she tries to reason with him about the motives for his actions against her:

“I believe you’re hungry—or been hungry—to try to snatch my pocketbook."

Mrs. Jones wants to get to the root of the problem so that she can help him avoid any such future run-ins with assaulting people. She cares about this young boy, offering him a meal and even offering to let him run down the street to purchase some milk for dinner if he'd prefer that. And when the meal is finished, she gives him the money he originally tried to steal from her so that he can buy the shoes he wants. She proves herself incredibly generous and forgiving through such an act.

Roger is not a cold, hardened criminal. When this elderly lady snatches him up off the ground, he allows it and allows himself to be fairly dragged to her house. When Mrs. Jones initially accosts him about his attempt to mug her, Roger replies:

“I’m very sorry, lady, I’m sorry,” whispered the boy.

It is the whisper that conveys the sincerity of his words, and the fact that he goes to her house shows that he is willing to accept some consequence for his actions. He realizes that he has made a mistake and shows some responsibility in the outcome of that behavior.

Roger later shows his character in his respectful interactions with Mrs. Jones, calling her "ma'am" and even offering to help with the meal:

“Do you need somebody to go to the store,” asked the boy, “maybe to get some milk or something?”

He therefore proves that he has a capacity for goodness and that hopefully this slip in character will not be repeated.

Both characters initially stereotype the other incorrectly, and they engage in a meaningful conversation that allows each to understand the other more fully.

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What does the dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about their characters?

The dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones reveals that they each know something about the other automatically, yet they also have something to learn.

Mrs. Jones, who walks home late at night, is familiar with the danger that she faces by doing so. Consequently, she has her purse weighted down with "everything but a hammer and nails" and is prepared to defend herself against purse snatchers. When Roger tries to steal this purse, she overpowers him, but realizes quickly that he is not really what might be termed a juvenile delinquent. For, Roger is polite when she asks, "Now, ain't you ashamed?" and he replies, "Yes'm."

The woman said, “What did you want to do it for?” The boy said, “I didn’t aim to.” She said, “You a lie!”

Although Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones is angry that this boy has tried to steal her purse, she is understanding of the boy. She tells him:

“But you put yourself in contact with me,” said the woman. “If you think that that contact is not going to last awhile, you got another thought coming. When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones."

Clearly, Mrs. Jones realizes that Roger has had no real parenting. So, with a kind but firm heart, she takes Roger home and makes a meal for him. And, with new respect for Mrs. Jones, Roger makes sure that he stands where she can see that he does not try to steal anything out of her purse. "He did not trust the woman not to trust him." Roger wants to earn some respect from Mrs. Jones.

Before he leaves, Roger is given supper and then Mrs. Jones gives him the money for some new shoes, telling him not to try stealing anymore.

“Now, here, take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes."

Roger wants to say more than just "Thank you, m'am," but the door shuts on him. He realizes that Mrs. Jones has been firm, but caring. Mrs. Jones has shown him that if he steals a purse, he takes a valuable possession from a real person.

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What does the dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about their characters?

In Thank You, M'am by Langston Hughes, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones' actions speak volumes about the type of person she is. She is not afraid; she will not accept bad behavior and she feels a moral obligation to anyone she comes into contact with. In Roger's case, she recognizes that he does not need punishing for attempting to steal her purse but he needs the kindness of another person, with no ulterior motive, to drive him towards being a better person himself. She refuses to judge Roger, as is apparent when she says, "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get" but she makes it clear that that is no excuse for making bad decisions. She asks Roger, when he tries to get away from her, "Was I bothering you when I turned that corner?" Now that she has an opportunity to make a difference in Roger's life, she intends to take it.

Roger's actions reveal that he lacks a role model and does want to face the consequences of his actions. He wants Mrs. Jones to let him go and he will try and squirm his way out of it if he can because he does not trust her or anyone else. However, once inside Mrs. Jones's home, Roger's attitude and his lack of trust change, and when presented with an opportunity to run, he does not; he washes his face and even offers to run an errand which reveals that his outlook is changing. 

Mrs. Jones's ultimate show of faith in Roger when she gives him the $10 with one simple instruction, to "behave yourself" shows that she believes in second chances  and has no agenda but a simple wish for Roger. Roger's response and his understanding that it is inadequate after what she has done, shows that Roger has learnt his lesson and the reader believes that Roger will really try to live up to Mrs. Jones's expectations. 

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What does the dialogue between Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about their characters?

In Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, M'am," Roger learns for the first time in his life that there truly are caring, compassionate people in the world, whereas Mrs. Jones is reminded of her past. Through her memories of her past, Mrs. Jones learns that there is often a need to show care and compassion.

At the start of the story, Mrs. Jones reacts the same way any woman in her position who has the upper hand would react. Since she is much larger than Roger, she is able to kick him, drag him to his feet, and shake him "until his teeth rattled." Her actions show that, like anyone in her position, she is angry. However, the more she gets a closer look at Roger, the more her attitude changes. Specifically, the moment she notices that his "face is dirty" and learns that he has no one at home to remind him to wash his face, she realizes he is neglected and, though he may have a home, his real home is largely the streets. Mrs. Jones knows that, like many impoverished kids, Roger is doing his utmost to survive on the streets. The moment she has this realization, her attitude changes from anger to understanding and compassion.

Mrs. Jones demonstrates her understanding and compassion by bringing him home to get him cleaned up and give him dinner. She further shows compassion by confessing that when she was young, she, too, "wanted things [she] could not get" and did things she is ashamed of, a memory that reminds her there is a need to show people just like her compassion and mercy.

When Roger hears this, he learns he is not really as alone as he thinks he is, that others have been in his same position. But Roger learns his greatest lesson from Mrs. Jones the moment she hands him a ten dollar bill and tells him to go buy the blue suede shoes he wants. It's at this moment he learns that there truly are caring, compassionate people in the world, people willing to help, a realization the reader can predict will change his life.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

In Langston Hughes's celebrated short story "Thank You, M'am," Mrs. Jones drags Roger to her home after he attempts to steal her purse and shows him kindness by making him feel comfortable and appreciated. Shortly after arriving at Mrs. Jones's home, she tells Roger to wash up, assures him that she will not call the police, and offers him a meal. Mrs. Jones's forgiving nature and hospitality make Roger feel at ease, and he passes on the opportunity to sprint out of the house. Mrs. Jones also sympathizes with Roger, does not judge him for his actions, and says she has also done things she regrets.

When Mrs. Jones enters the kitchen to prepare a meal, she leaves her purse behind, which demonstrates her trust in Roger. Roger purposely sits farther away from the purse and does not entertain the idea of stealing it. Roger refrains from stealing the purse because he desires to prove to Mrs. Jones that he is a trustworthy, moral adolescent. Mrs. Jones's hospitality and compassion have influenced Roger to dramatically change his outlook on life. Roger has recognized his mistake, learned to appreciate Mrs. Jones, and is determined to turn over a new leaf.

Mrs. Jones has successfully taught Roger the importance of earning material objects the right way and has influenced him to change his attitude by showing him compassion, sympathy, and hospitality. Roger learns that taking shortcuts only hurts upright, hardworking people like Mrs. Jones and realizes that he must change his ways.

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

When Mrs. Jones leaves him alone with her purse, Roger goes out of his way to not only be trustworthy, but also to ensure that his hostess can see that he is worthy of trust. Instead of snatching the purse which he had earlier tried to steal and making a run for it, he seats himself in a strategic position where he knows Mrs. Jones will be able to see him while she is preparing their meal.

He does this because Mrs. Jones's pragmatic kindness and candor has made him want to be a better person. In just a few minutes, he has been transformed from a boy willing to steal in order to buy a pair of shoes to a young man who wants to be known as trustworthy and reliable. He wants Mrs. Jones to be fully aware that her judgment of him is correct and that he is not going to run off.

Roger's behavior and attitude have undergone a seismic shift. Mere minutes before, he was a dishonest boy. Now, he is a young man proving himself worthy of respect. The fact that Mrs. Jones showed him kindness and trust makes Roger want to live up to her idea of the man he could be.

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

In Langston Hughes short story “Thank you, M’am,” Roger’s attitude changes from that of a petty thief to a young man who desires to demonstrate his trustworthiness and gratitude.

After Mrs. Jones decides not to contact the authorities, she drags him back to her room in the boarding house. With her immediate actions, she shows Roger an inkling of trust. When they arrive back in the room, she places her purse on the day-bed in plain sight and instructs Roger to wash up. It is his choice whether he grabs the purse and runs out the door, or whether he stays with Mrs. Jones. He decides to stay, and when he returns from the sink, he sits as far away from the purse as possible. Mrs. Jones and Roger have a conversation in which she reveals some details about her past, which Roger can relate to in his current situation as a young man growing up in the slums of New York City. His family life is non-existent, he is poor, and he wants new, blue suede shoes.

After this conversation, Roger realizes he wants to be trusted. He sees his mistake in attacking Mrs. Jones, who is making out a living by working long hours in a local beauty salon. Roger sees the value in her hard work and determination, and he is grateful for her kindness.

In another corner of the room behind a screen was a gas plate and an icebox. Mrs. Jones 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 day-bed. 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.

Mrs. Jones' kindness and respect, her lack of preaching, and her demonstration of understanding help Roger change from a child of desperation to a grateful young man.

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

It is important to understand that Roger's attempt at stealing Mrs. Jones's purse is informed by his socio-economic environment. He is obviously an impoverished and neglected child who wants something (a pair of blue suede shoes) that his caregivers cannot provide. He probably assumes that stealing the purse will be a quick action and that his desire will be satisfied. 

Roger's interaction with Mrs. Jones indicates that the rules of conduct when addressing elders have been inculcated into him. When she detains him, he speaks to her with respect. He does not swear or shout at her but is submissive and meekly responds to her questions. His responses are honest, and he does not want to offend her. When Mrs. Jones, for example, asks him why he wanted to steal her purse, he says that he didn't mean to. When she tells him that he is lying, he does not respond. 

Roger's demeanor is acquiescent, apologetic, and cooperative. He tells Mrs. Jones what she wants to know. When she threatens that he will not forget her once she is through with him, his struggle is to avoid whatever severe sanction he assumes she might impose on him. She manages, however, to drag him to her apartment and promises him food and a face wash.

Roger retains his obedient manner when they are in Mrs. Jones's apartment. He remains honest and easily tells her his name and why he wanted money. He gains new insight when she tells him that he could just have asked her for the money to buy the blue suede shoes he so desperately wants. Roger's respect for Mrs. Jones increases when she conveys some insight into herself. She gives him an idea of how she had, on numerous occasions, also acted inappropriately in the past.

During their conversation, Roger considers running away but decides against it. He wants Mrs. Jones to trust him and even offers to run an errand to the shop for her. He sits in a place where she can see him. The boy seems happy about the attention she is giving him and feels comfortable in her presence. During their wholesome meal, Mrs. Jones speaks about herself and does not ask Roger any embarrassing questions about himself or his life. Because of this, Roger's respect for her must, surely, have grown even more.

At the end of the story, Roger finds it difficult to express his gratitude to Mrs. Jones for giving him ten dollars for his shoes and, of course, her generosity in providing him a meal. Roger is probably the most grateful for the life lesson Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones has taught him. Such a gift is priceless.

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

Roger's treatment of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones mirrors his transformation as a character. At the beginning of the story, he is wrapped up in his own self-interests, unwilling to consider other people and their needs as equally valid to his own. His choice to attempt to steal Mrs. Jones' purse shows that, even though he calls her "m'am," he does not truly feel the respect that such a title suggests. His lying and attempts to escape show that he is only concerned about his own well-being and avoiding the consequences of his actions.

When Mrs. Jones brings him to her house to feed him dinner and takes a genuine interest in his well-being, however, Roger gains respect for her. He suddenly cares what she thinks of him, choosing not to run when he has the chance and hoping that she will trust him if he sits far away from her purse. Though he does little directly to Mrs. Jones, the actions he takes in her house are considerate of her feelings and opinion of him, showing that he has grown as a character. His respect is no longer superficial and the gratitude he feels when they part is genuine. The hope of Mrs. Jones and the reader is that this respect and consideration of others will stay with the boy from now on.

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

In "Thank You, Ma'am," by Langston Hughes, a young teenaged boy named Roger attempts to steal Mrs. Jones' purse, but Mrs. Jones, grabs him and takes him home with her. At first Roger thinks she is going to take him to jail, but once he realizes she is not, he relaxes a little. He shows her respect when she leaves him alone to make dinner. Her purse is right there, and he could easily snatch it and make a run for it, but he does not. At this point, Roger wants Mrs. Jones to trust him, even though earlier he was not very trustworthy.

"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." (Hughes 3)

At dinner, Roger respectfully listened to Mrs. Jones as she told him about her job and the women she served in a hotel beauty shop. He wished he could do more than just say, "Thank you" when she gave him money for those shoes he so desperately wanted. He learned a big lesson on the day he met up with Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.

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

Mrs. Jones uses three approaches to show Roger how to be honest. First, she treats him like she's his mother, albeit a stern and caring one. When he tries to steal her purse, she kicks him in the butt then picks him up and shakes him. She refuses to let him go, instead making him stoop and pick up her purse. She then asks if he'll run if she turns him loose; when he says yes, she matter-of-factly says that she won't release him, then. When she gets him to her home, she tells him to wash his face and suggests he comb his hair to be presentable while she cooks. She's asked if he has someone at home to cook for him and make him clean his face, and he says no.

She doesn't pity him. Instead, she treats him like a young man who needs a firm hand to guide him.  

Finally, she shows him respect and trust and he is moved to show her respect and trust in return. Thus, by the end of the story, he calls her--a woman who was merely a target of opportunity an hour before--"Ma'am."

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In "Thank You, M'am," how does Roger conduct himself in Mrs. Jones' home?

There is a marked contrast to the way Roger behaves in Mrs. Louella Bates Washington Jones' home compared with his earlier attempt to steal her purse. The reader learns that Roger has little supervision at home, that he has learned the ways of "the street" to compensate for being forced to look out for himself while still a child. Mrs. Jones shows care and concern for Roger. She mothers him, telling him to wash his face before she feeds him, knowing he has not eaten. She respects him by not asking embarrassing questions.

Most important, she allows him to prove he is trustworthy in the only way one can--she trusts him. In return, Roger wants to live up to the kind of person she shows him he can be. He is polite and thoughtful. And he is grateful, which is why at the end of the story, he wants to say more than "thank you, ma'am."

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

In Thank You, M'am by Langston Hughes, when Roger attempts to steal the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, and after bungling his attempt and being dragged by his collar along the road, he is not expecting Mrs. Jones to treat him sympathetically. He wants to get away because he thinks that she is going to escort him straight to jail which is his first question to her. However, Mrs. Jones has noticed that he looks neglected and in need of some parental guidance and advice which she intends to share with him, especially as Roger was the one who interrupted her walk home when she was minding her own business. 

As the story progresses, Roger's attitude changes and he begins to relax a little when Mrs. Jones treats him with a respect he was not anticipating. She does not treat him like someone who has just stolen her "pocketbook" and he does appreciate that. He decides not to run, even when an opportunity presents itself which is the first sign of his gratitude because he is still not sure if she will take him to jail and instead he offers to run an errand to the shop if she needs anything. This is Roger's way of saying thank you for her kindness so far. Roger's honesty is also indicative of how grateful he is; from Mrs. Jones's behavior, honesty is clearly something that she values. Roger's recognition that a "thank you" is not really sufficient as he "wanted to say something else" also reveals how grateful he is. 

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How does Mrs. Jones's reaction to Roger's actions develop the theme in "Thank You, M'am"?

In spite of Roger’s attempt to rob her, Mrs. Jones shows the boy nothing but kindness, advancing the story’s themes surrounding empathy, compassion, dignity, and trust.

One of the first questions Roger asks Mrs. Jones after they arrive at her home is whether she is planning to take him to jail. Indeed, conventional wisdom would mark that as the correct course of action. From an outside perspective, Roger is the assailant, and Mrs. Jones is his would-be victim. However, “Thank You, M’am” recognizes that there are different types of victimhood. Mrs. Jones does not dismiss Roger merely as a would-be assailant, instead recognizing him for what he is: a victim of circumstance. Roger comes from a difficult background, and he admits to Mrs. Jones that he doesn’t have anyone at home to take care of him. His face is dirty, he has not eaten, and he is described as “frail.” Mrs. Jones remarks:

You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?

This encapsulates Mrs. Jones’s attitude towards Roger throughout the story: although he is not truly her son, she takes it upon herself to behave as a mother would, knowing that Roger probably does not have any other positive role models in his life. She sternly lectures him about his appearance, the importance of eating, the need to get proper rest, and the dangers of ill-gotten gains. All of her words indicate that Mrs. Jones understands Roger on some level, and she remarks that she, too, did things she isn’t proud of when she was young. Her ability to empathize with Roger helps their encounter go more smoothly, and her apparent knowledge of how to handle such a situation puts the otherwise guilty and skittish boy at ease.

In addition to extending empathy and compassion to Roger, Mrs. Jones also makes an effort to impart upon him some important lessons about dignity and trust. Rather than allowing Roger to remain hungry and unkempt—which would likely only have cemented his feelings of shame—she feeds him and encourages him to wash himself. Though her words are stern and scolding, her actions actually encourage dignity and self-respect through the maintenance of a presentable appearance. Furthermore, by leaving the path to the doorway open and by not watching Roger as she cooks, Mrs. Jones is showcasing both her trust in Roger and her respect of his autonomy. Although she forced him to return to her home, she does not force him to stay, and Roger responds to her trust by thinking that he in turn “[does] not want to be mistrusted now.”

Additionally, Hughes, as a famed Harlem Renaissance writer, is known for writing about the experiences of Black folks, especially those living in poverty. Though race is never explicitly mentioned in “Thank You, M’am,” the story is often read as a commentary on the importance of community mentorship, self-worth, and establishing positive conceptions of Black identity. Roger begins the story as a would-be petty criminal because his life circumstances and the contemporary social messages around him indicated that such was the fate of streetwise, impoverished Black youths. However, Mrs. Jones refuses to perpetuate that narrative, instead encouraging him to take a greater degree of pride in himself and willingly giving him the financial support he initially sought through criminal means. Mrs. Jones essentially breaks the negative feedback loop surrounding Roger, and instead helps him conceptualize a world in which kindness, respect, and love are freely given.

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How does what Mrs. Jones reveals to Roger about her past help her understand his life in "Thank You, M'am"?

After Roger tries to steal her purse, Mrs. Jones tells Roger that she was young once and wanted things she could not get.  This surprises Roger.  He realizes that she understands his longing better than he thought.

When Roger tries to rob Mrs. Jones, he has no idea what he is in for.  He seems completely baffled by getting caught, answering her questions in short, sullen bursts that are borderline respectful.  He does answer her questions though, and he does decide to stay instead of running.

 You thought I was going to say, but I didn’t snatch people’s pocketbooks. Well, I wasn’t going to say that." Pause. Silence. "I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know. (p. 3)

She does not reveal to him what she had done, but she makes it clear that it was comparable or worse to stealing an old lady’s purse.

Roger realizes that what he did was wrong, but it does not make him a bad person.  His desperation got the better of him.  He makes an effort to be good from then on, and stay where she can see him.  He wants to be trusted by her.

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Why might Mrs. Jones feel compelled to help Roger in "Thank You, M'am"?

Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones feels sorry for Roger because she sees him out alone late at night with his face dirty.  She understands that he is not a hardened criminal.  He is just a kid who made a bad choice and has no role models.

Mrs. Jones decides to be a role model for Roger.  When he asks her if she is going to turn him in, she says she won’t and tells him to wash his face.  She seems to feel sorry for him and want to offer him guidance.

He looked as if he were fourteen or fifteen, frail and willow-wild, in tennis shoes and blue jeans.

The woman said, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?”

Mrs. Jones confides in Roger that she has made some choices she is not proud of.   She tells him she was young once too.  Her reflection helps bring Roger out of his shell.

“… You thought I was going to say, but I didn’t snatch people’s pocketbooks. Well, I wasn’t going to say that.” Pause. Silence. “I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know. …”

Roger asks Mrs. Jones if she needs anything from the store, but she declines.  They never get very close, even though it is clear that she has made an impression on him.  When he leaves, it seems that they are never going to see each other again.  Mrs. Jones said any contact with her would "last awhile," and she was right.  The impression she makes on Roger will be a long-standing one.

Mrs. Jones’s past is somewhat of a mystery to us, but it is clear that she has had some hardships.  Now she works for a beauty shop and seems to work late, since she was out so late at night.  She also appears to live alone in a boarding house, so we do not know where her husband is or if she ever had a son of her own.

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In "Thank You, M'am," what does Mrs. Jones' speech and behavior tell you about her reasons for helping Roger?

Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones from Thank you M'am by Langston Hughes does not believe that there is any excuse for bad behavior. Her speech when she tells Roger that "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get" reveals a wistfulness in its tone and a recollection of a time in her life when she could not have the things she wanted most. It is apparent that she was young at the time and also did some things of which she is not proud. She has no intention of giving Roger the details but she wants him to know that it is not unusual to want something so badly as to do something you may regret later. However, there is a limit and Roger needs to know that but Mrs. Jones will not judge him. She will only try to make a difference in his life, no matter how small her contribution, whether morally, socially or of monetary value.

In fact, the $10 she gives him is a significant donation especially considering her own circumstances which are apparently modest. She is willing to share whatever she has with him, even if it is not a lot. The reader is aware that she can relate to Roger and probably recognizes similarities with her own childhood and upbringing; things she would change if Roger were her own son and thus revealing her reasons for giving Roger a second chance.  

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Compare and contrast Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am".

In the story, Roger is much younger than Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones and lacks a support system, which is why he is dirty, unfed, and desperate enough to try to steal Mrs. Jones's purse. Roger is also naïve and reckless. As a fifteen-year-old boy, Roger believes that the easiest way to buy a pair of blue suede shoes is to rob a random woman walking down the street. Roger lacks foresight, is not concerned about his future, and is simply trying to satisfy his desires. He is also selfish and does not consider how his actions affect others.

Mrs. Jones is much older and wiser than Roger. She also has more stability in her life and works to acquire her money. Unlike Roger, Mrs. Jones is selfless and has the ability to view situations from another person's perspective. Mrs. Jones is also more understanding than Roger and recognizes that he needs support and charity. Unlike Roger, Mrs. Jones recognizes the importance of giving instead of taking and invites him to her home.

Although Roger and Mrs. Jones are dramatically different, they share some similar attributes. Both Mrs. Jones and Roger are the same race, live in the inner city, and come from unstable homes. They both have done illegal things in their lives and made reckless decisions before. Mrs. Jones and Roger are both courageous individuals who are not afraid of conflict: Roger tries to rob a random woman, and Mrs. Jones immediately grabs her attacker. They also value comfort, stability, and security. Roger feels safe inside of Mrs. Jones's home and stays for dinner instead of running out the front door. Mrs. Jones and Roger also show concern for others. Mrs. Jones demonstrates sympathy by taking Roger home, and Roger tries to be helpful by asking to go to the store for her.

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Compare and contrast Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am".

In Langston Hughes's celebrated short story "Thank You, M'am," a desperate teenage boy named Roger attempts to steal Mrs. Jones's purse but fails. After narrowly avoiding having her purse stolen, Mrs. Jones demonstrates compassion and hospitality by inviting Roger home and offering him a hearty meal.

Although both characters differ in age, personality, and experience, Roger and Mrs. Jones share several similar characteristics. For example, both characters are African Americans living in the inner city. Roger and Mrs. Jones also come from similar backgrounds and know what it is like to experience poverty. Roger and Mrs. Jones have also done things they regret and acted impetuously out of desperation. Mrs. Jones even tells Roger,

I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know (Hughes, 4).
Both characters are also willing to act independently by taking control of their situations. Roger attempts to solve his issue by stealing Mrs. Jones's purse, while Mrs. Jones refuses to inform the authorities or let Roger go. Roger and Mrs. Jones also value compassion and respect. Mrs. Jones demonstrates her compassion by showing Roger mercy, and Roger repays the favor by proving that he is trustworthy and respectful.
Despite their several similarities, Roger and Mrs. Jones dramatically differ in age and experience. Roger is depicted as an imprudent teenager who disregards the law by attempting to steal Mrs. Jones's purse. In contrast, Mrs. Jones is significantly older and has respect for the law. She recognizes that laws are meant to be followed and understands the negatives attached to breaking those laws.

Initially, Roger lacks respect for others, and his actions prove that he does not exercise sympathy. In contrast, Mrs. Jones displays compassion by forgiving Roger and offering him food and comfort. Also, Roger lacks stability and a comfortable home, which are things that Mrs. Jones has worked hard to attain.

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Compare and contrast Roger and Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am".

Both Mrs. Jones and Roger are denizens of Harlem and, as such, have shared some of the same experiences. However, Mrs. Jones is an adult who has profited from her experiences and is now wiser than the young Roger.

After she resists his attempts to steal her purse and captures him, Mrs. Jones tells Roger to pick up her purse, then asks him, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?" He replies that he is, although it may be out of fear that he answers. Nevertheless, from his next responses to Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones it becomes apparent that Roger learns to respect this woman. Then, after she takes him home and feeds him, Roger certainly acquires gratitude for her kindness to him.

Here, then, are some comparisons and contrasts between the two characters:

--Comparisons

  • Both are from the inner city and have not lived a comfortable, stable life.
  • Both have done things that are illegal.

“I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know," Mrs. Jones reveals to Roger.

  • Both have learned respect for others. Mrs. Jones tells Roger, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong."
    Only later on does Roger speak very respectfully, and he makes sure that she knows he is not looking at her purse nor is he near it.
  • Both demonstrate concern for the welfare of others. Mrs. Jones takes Roger home; Roger tries to be helpful.

--Contrasts

  • Mrs. Jones is a trustworthy, hard-working, and compassionate woman. However, Roger has no consideration for her when he tries to steal her purse; instead, he merely pursues his selfish desire for a pair of shoes. Whereas Mrs. Jones no longer believes in breaking the law, Roger defies it.
  • Early in the narrative, Mrs. Jones treats Roger kindly, offering to take him home and wash his face [which implies more than is said]. On the other hand, Roger selfishly preys on her, and after he is stopped, he simply wants to get away.
  • Mrs. Jones displays a respect for Roger as a person early on; later, she offers to feed him and directs him to wash his face and clean up before eating while he is in her rooms. Roger's respect is merely given out of fear at first. But, after learning to respect Mrs. Jones, he is concerned about her, offering to run errands:

“Do you need somebody to go to the store,” asked the boy, “maybe to get some milk or something?"

Also, Roger even thanks her as he departs.

  • Roger only learns from his experience with Mrs. Jones to respect people; Mrs. Jones already displays sympathy for others.
  • Where she lives, Mrs. Jones has people with whom she can interact. Alone at home at night, Roger is deprived of parental attention and guidance.
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What is interesting about the physical contrast of Mrs. Jones and Roger in the story "Thank You, M'am"?

It is interesting that Mrs. Jones is physically larger and stronger than Roger because she "turns the tables" on Roger and because she is also figuratively a bigger person, being morally stronger.

"Thank you, M'am" by Langston Hughes is a delightful story because of the edifying ending, but also because of its humor. For, the reader can just picture little Roger tipping over as he tries to hang on to Mrs. Jones's purse. And, then Mrs. Jones literally attacks him:

...the large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.

Roger certainly has to be humiliated by being so helpless at the hands of a woman he must have believed an easy target just moments before. So, Mrs. Jones gets "the upper hand" on Roger both physically and psychologically. But, after winning the physical struggle with Roger, she proves to be a very compassionate and charitable person. Exhibiting motherly traits, Mrs. Jones asks Roger, "Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?” When Roger responds in the negative, she replies, "Then it will get washed this evening" and takes him to her rented room where he can wash his face while she prepares a meal for them to share.

Roger is so moved by her goodness that he comes to desire her trust in him; moreover, when she gives him her hard-earned ten dollars so that he can buy the shoes he desires, he is so touched by her charity and love that all he can say is "Thank you."

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What does Mrs. Jones' dialogue in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about her?

In this short story, Thank you Ma'am by Langston Hughes, the reader is introduced to what will definitely be a "no nonsense" kind of lady, "When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.” (page 2 line 3). She is a practical person with "everything in it (her purse) but hammer and nails."(line 1)

It is clear to the reader that Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones is a proud woman but her language use "Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you..."reveals her social status. She is not a wealthy person (with her "ten-cent cake"), despite her very grand name and demeanour. She does not believe  that there is any excuse, however, for misbehavior and "I would teach you right from wrong" (page 1) continues to reflect a dignified person, regardless of social standing. 

Mrs Jones's dialogue further reveals that she is not judgemental and, despite the boy trying to steal she recalls  “I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son."(line 1,page 3). Mrs Jones does not lecture the boy other than to remind him not to steal again, whether it be her "pocketbook nor nobody else’s." (page 3) She also expects nothing in return except  that the boy should "Behave yourself, boy!” The boy has learnt a valuable lesson. 

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What does Mrs. Jones' dialogue in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about her?

A stout, strong woman, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones has seen much of life herself and now takes what happens to her "in stride" as she displays no surprise or distress when the boy attempts the theft of her purse. Instead, like an experienced mother or other instructor of youth, having "[F]irmly gripped [him] by his shirt front," she asks the boy is he is not ashamed of himself. Further, when the boy pretends that he did not "mean to," she scolds, "You a lie!"

Fully in command of the situation, Mrs. Jones receives the truth from the boy when she asks him if he will run away if she releases her wrestling hold on him. Then, with the diplomacy of motherly experience, Mrs. Jones notes that this boy is uncared for, 

"And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobdy home to tell you to wash your face?"

Noticing how frail he is, as well, Mrs. Jones continues,

“You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?" 

As this warm-hearted woman takes him home to her modest one-room in a boarding house and shares her meager meal with the boy, she explains to him why she has not let him go: his actions have involved him with her life. Yet she does not scold him, instead displaying concern for the boy physical needs and asking him his name. When she tells Roger that he could have asked her for money for the blue suede shoes he desires, the boy is stunned by her charity.

The understanding of Mrs. Jones reveals that she, too, has longed for things and she, too, has done things of which she is ashamed. But, never does she judge the boy by saying "but I didn't snatch people's pocketbooks."  Obviously moved by this woman's honest heart. the boy tries to reciprocate her charity by asking if he can run to the store for her.

After their meal, Mrs. Jones gives Roger ten dollars for blue suede shoes, telling him to never steal again because shoes obtained through theft will burn his feet; that is, they will always remind him of his sinful deed. Leading him to the door, Mrs. Jones bids him good-bye, ordering him "Behave yourself, boy!" Nearly speechless with gratitude for her kindness, the boy barely gets his thanks out before she closes the door on the important part that she has played in his life. For, Mrs. Jones has given Roger the physical gifts of cleanliness and food, restoring basic human dignity to him; her spritual gifts are equality, trust, and encouragement to achieve self-esteem.

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What does Mrs. Jones' dialogue in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about her?

Although Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones (I love that name!) at first appears rather rough and gruff, the things she says to Roger and the way she reacts to him as the story progresses paints a bit of a different picture.

Initially, Ms. Jones is incensed and outraged that the boy tried to steal her purse and questions him "Why'd you want to do it?"

Then, as she drags him home to her house, a different side begins to emerge. She takes him home instead of to the police so that she can feed him because he has no one at home to do that for him.

While at her house, Ms. Jones hints at some not-so-pleasant details of her own past in which she alludes to the fact that she herself did some things when she was young that she is not so proud of--the reader can then understand why she is being so nice to this would-be criminal.

So, what kind of person takes a petty thief home and feeds them? A very kind and understanding one.

As for using details in the story, pick out specific sentences of the things that Ms. Jones says and does to prove what you are claiming--for example, if you are saying she is kind and understanding, how do you know this? Where in the story does it show her acting this way?

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What does Mrs. Jones' dialogue in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about her?

In this story, the author reveals many things about Mrs. Jones, first, we know that she has experience with street people, and is aware of the want that sometimes drives their desperate acts.

Langston Hughes writes in a style that tells the reader that the character is an African American woman.  She works late, and is not afraid of people on the street.  She confronts her thief and instead of punishing him, she treats him to food, comfort and gives him money to buy his desired blue suede shoes.

Mrs. Jones does not judge the actions of others, she is a generous, kind and giving person, someone who knows right from wrong, but is not self-righteous.

"Pick up my pocketbook, boy, and give it here." She still held him. But she bent down enough to permit him to stoop and pick up her purse. Then she said, "Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?" (Hughes)

She knows right from wrong, but she also can recognize need.

"Not with that face, I would not take you nowhere," said the woman. "Here I am trying to get home to cook me a bite to eat and you snatch my pocketbook! Maybe, you ain’t been to your supper either, late as it be. Have you?" (Hughes)

She immediately wants to look after the boy, someone who has tried to rob her.  She represents the message of Christianity by doing for the least of my brothers, as Christ told his followers, without a desire for anything in return. 

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What does Mrs. Jones' dialogue in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about her?

Mrs. Jones seems indignant when her purse is grabbed. Her manner and words are brusque. However, she takes the boy inside and there we see her true nature. She treats the boy with respect and accepts his wrong action as redeemable. She is a fair, understanding, and caring person.

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What does Mrs. Jones' dialogue in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about her?

The relationship that develops between Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones and Roger in Thank You, M'am is unique. Mrs. Jones recognizes that Roger needs far more than to be punished for his reckless behavior when he tries to steal Mrs. Jones's purse. She sees a vulnerable boy and immediately identifies with his situation. His dirty face reveals to her that he is in danger of getting himself into far more trouble unless someone takes him in hand and teaches him the value of self-respect, among other things.

At first, Roger does not trust Mrs. Jones and will take the first opportunity presented to him to run away from her because he thinks she will take him to the police station; after all, he did try to steal her purse and got caught. Roger is at least honest with Mrs. Jones when he admits that he will run and he earnestly inquires whether her intentions are to take him to the police. He begins to relax although he is still suspicious of Mrs. Jones's motives, when he realizes that she does actually respect him and is not afraid to leave her purse in open view of him or to admit that "I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son." This is a good quote which shows that Roger is inspired by her behavior and apparent goodwill to the point that he stops thinking about running away and even offers to run an errand for her. This is his way of showing her his gratitude and proves that he is learning the value of respect. 

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In "Thank You, M'am," give one quote that Mrs. Jones says and analysis of what it demonstrates about her.

Mrs. Jones, in Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, Ma'am," is a tough, strong, forthright woman who takes no nonsense from anybody. She demonstrates this in her behavior toward the young boy who is attempting to steal her purse at the beginning of the story—she demands to know if he is "ashamed of [him]self" and is sufficiently intimidating to make the boy say he is. She then tells him, using firm, authoritative language, "I won't turn you loose," and she is true to her word.

Mrs. Jones is a memorable figure, and she quite clearly aims to be so. Perhaps the most definitive quotation she speaks in this story is this:

When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.

The encounter she has had with this boy has been brief—he was hoping simply to snatch her purse and run. However, Mrs. Jones apparently had other ideas. She drags the boy into her house, demands to know his name, and then makes him wash his face. However, she isn't an unkind woman—she knows how it is to want something you are unable to get for yourself. She offers to feed the boy and makes him comb his hair. The result of this behavior is that the boy "did not want to be mistrusted now." His interaction with her has changed him, even though, after this incident, he "never saw her again."

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In "Thank You, M'am," give one quote that Mrs. Jones says and analysis of what it demonstrates about her.

Of course, what characters say is a great way of identifying the kind of characters that they are. A lot of the characteristics we are given about Mrs. Jones, the famous character from this story, can be deduced from the kind of things that she says. Consider the following example:

I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son--neither tell God, if He didn't already know. Everybody's got something in common.

What is fascinating about this quote is the way that it shows the sympathy, empathy and understanding of Mrs. Jones towards Roger. She does not give him a massive lecture and tell him off, instead she just says that she has done things that she is ashamed of as well, and then leaves it at that. Establishing this connection is something that helps their friendship, and means that the impact of Mrs. Jones on Roger's life is one that will last forever.

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What is Roger's initial perception of Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am"?

The perspective of this short story by Langston Hughes doesn't really give us an opportunity to learn outright what Roger, the boy, is thinking when he first sees Mrs Hughes. We can presume that, because it was eleven o'clock at night and the woman was walking alone, he thought—although noting that she was "large"—that she would be unable to stop him from stealing her purse. Presumably, there was some initial judgement that this woman was weaker or slower than he, the would-be thief.

Mrs. Jones soon puts an end to that idea, however. We can see from Roger's behavior—he "whispers" in response to Mrs. Jones's interrogation—that he is frightened by how badly he misjudged her. He perceives her as unkind and threatening, certainly as someone who will take no nonsense from him. He probably also assumes she will have no sympathy for him. As the story goes on, though, Roger comes to learn that this is not the case.

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What is Roger's initial perception of Mrs. Jones in "Thank You, M'am"?

At the beginning of Langston Hughes' short story "Thank You, Ma'am," the boy, Roger, looks at Mrs. Jones as a nobody—as his victim. He plans to steal her purse and probably does not even think of the consequences to Mrs. Jones. He wants something, and he aims to get it. When Mrs. Jones stops him from stealing her purse, Roger is afraid and looks at her as an enemy. He thinks she will turn him over to the police. It is not until they get to Mrs. Jones' home that Roger begins to realize she is not going to turn him in. When she tells him that she did things she shouldn't have done when she was younger, he begins to relax. Finally, when she makes him supper and gives him money, he realizes that she is a thinking, feeling human being and did not deserve to have her purse stolen. He is changed by the experience.

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Is Mrs. Jones Roger's mother in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes?

No, Mrs. Jones is not Roger’s mother, but someone he meets when he tries to snatch her purse one night.  She seems like a mother figure to Roger because of her kind attitude towards him.  She feeds him and gives him ten dollars to buy the pair of blue suede shoes he wants so bad when he attempts to commit theft of Mrs. Jones’ purse.  As a matter of fact, Roger tells Mrs. Jones several times that there is no one at his home.  This suggests that Roger is either lying, he is homeless, or his parents aren’t around much.  At the end of the story, Langston Hughes says that Roger never sees Mrs. Jones again.  Although Mrs. Jones is not Roger’s mother, she teaches him a life lesson about doing what is right and to never steal again.

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What is Mrs. Jones's attitude toward Roger in "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 takes a different approach. Using a bit of tough love, she seizes this moment to try to turn the young man's life around.

Mrs. Jones is perceptive and quickly realizes that Roger doesn't have anyone at home who can help guide his actions. She thus appoints herself as his mentor on this evening and seeks to first meet his physical needs. As she begins to prepare a meal, Mrs. Jones asks that Roger wash his dirty face, much as any mother would when preparing a meal for a hungry child. She leaves her purse out in the open, proving that she trusts him not to make the same mistake again.

As they sit together, Mrs. Jones is honest with Roger, telling him that she was "young once and [she] wanted things [she] could not get." Her frank honesty surprises Roger, but she furthers this admission by asserting that she has done things she wouldn't even admit to God "if he didn't already know."

Following this admission, Mrs. Jones returns to Roger's appearance, asking him to run a comb through his hair so that he looks presentable for their dinner. In doing so, she is asking that Roger become cognizant of the way he presents himself. Since he likely lacks a maternal influence at home, she affords him with bits of motherly wisdom about choices, cleanliness, and respect.

From their first moments together, Mrs. Jones establishes her sense of strength, showing no fear of Roger in their interactions despite his original intentions to steal from her. Her openness and grace hopefully transform the young man's attitude and values as he leaves her home, putting him on the path toward a more successful life.

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What motivated Roger and Mrs. Jones' actions in "Thank You, M'am"?

Langston Hughes's short story "Thank You, Ma'am" begins with a boy named Roger trying to steal a purse from a large woman named Mrs. Jones. The boy fails in his attempt to steal the purse, and Mrs. Jones decides to take, or rather drag, him home with her. She feeds him, makes him wash his face, and gives him some money to buy shoes.

Roger tells Mrs. Jones that he tried to steal from her because he "wanted a pair of blue suede shoes." He also tells her that there's "nobody at home at (his) house," which perhaps implies a deeper reason for his behavior. The implication is that he has nobody to care for him, and nobody to teach him right from wrong.

The motivations for Mrs. Jones's actions are implied when she tells the boy that she has "done things, too," which, she says, she would not tell him—or God "if he didn't already know." The implication here is that Mrs. Jones has, like the boy, acted immorally before, and perhaps, therefore, she understands that immoral behavior sometimes has mitigating circumstances.

In short, Mrs. Jones's actions are motivated by her ability to empathize with the boy. She also seems to understand that immoral or criminal behavior is best dealt with through rehabilitation and re-education, as opposed to punitive retribution. Indeed, this is arguably the moral of the story.

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What are the traits of Mrs. Jones and Roger in "Thank You, M'am"?

Mrs. Jones comes across as quite a formidable, no-nonsense kind of character. She has a clear sense of what's right and wrong, and as such has no hesitation in confronting Roger over his attempted theft of her purse. Yet at the same time, she doesn't frogmarch him to the nearest police station as we might expect. Instead, she takes the troubled young boy home with her to get him cleaned up, fed, and watered. This indicates that, beneath her somewhat intimidating exterior, Mrs. Jones is actually a deeply caring woman. She senses that Roger comes from a broken home and has been forced into committing theft out of desperation. That being the case, she's willing to give him a second chance.

It's patently obvious that Roger is no serial criminal. For one thing, he's not very skillful as a thief. He gives the impression of being a frightened, troubled kid in desperate need of some firm guidance in life. Roger doesn't have much of a home life, and so Mrs. Jones briefly steps into the breach as a kind of substitute mother figure. Roger is incredibly grateful for Mrs. Jones's generosity and understanding, and we sense that perhaps he will use this strange encounter to turn his life around.

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What are the traits of Mrs. Jones and Roger in "Thank You, M'am"?

Mrs. Jones is a large, strong woman. She carries a heavy purse and can pick up a teenaged boy and shake him. She's self-sufficient, living in her own apartment and paying her own way with her own job. She's compassionate, perhaps having learned from her own childhood mistakes, and now shows compassion to Roger. She's a self-respecting woman and thus has the capacity to respect others and honor their boundaries (she doesn't ask Roger embarrassing questions). She is willing to give Roger a chance to prove himself trustworthy (which he does). She's firm, but friendly. 

Roger is not homeless, but he has no one at home. He's desperate enough to try to take her purse in the beginning of the story, and he's filthy and hungry. All the same, as Mrs. Jones sees, he isn't a bad young man, even though he's "frail and willow-wild." He is compelled to return Mrs. Jones's respect and trust, proving that there's hope for him. He's also thankful, in the end, but overwhelmed enough to be wordless when he's left on the street. 

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What do Roger and Mrs. Jones's silences in "Thank You, M'am" reveal about their characters?

In Thank You M'am by Langston Hughes, when a boy tries to steal Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones's purse, she is not impressed and she tells him so. However, with his unwashed face and a neglected look about him, she does recognize that this boy, who tells her that his name is Roger, needs some guidance and friendly advice.

Roger is not sure how to interpret Mrs. Jones's actions, worrying that she will take him to jail but when she suggests that he could have asked her for money instead of trying to steal it, Roger is confused. While drying his face, having been instructed by Mrs. Jones to wash it, "there was a long pause." Roger is deliberating whether he should run away or whether he should stay because Mrs. Jones is a total stranger and he needs to take in what she has said because it sounds like quite a ridiculous notion.

It is interesting that Mrs. Jones also remains quiet. She is pondering her own youth,and when she does speak, she tells Roger that she too "wanted things i could not get." The pause that follows allows Mrs. Jones to consider the possible similarities between herself and Roger. Roger is quite shocked that Mrs. Jones has revealed this and is not sure how to respond with the result that he opens his mouth and he frowns but he says nothing. When Mrs. Jones continues speaking, she stops to allow the information to sink in and also because her memory is reviving thoughts of a time of which she is perhaps not proud, having "done things" she would probably rather forget.

These silences reveal that the stories behind both characters are deeper and carry meaning beyond the scope of the words themselves. The reader is able to benefit from the silences and appreciate the difference that Mrs.Jones has had on Roger. 

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