How do the events, plot, setting, and characters of "Thank You, M'am" interconnect?

Expert Answers

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

One thing that links the events, plot, setting, and characters together is the life story of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.

Events that Roger experiences now are similar to events Mrs. Jones experienced earlier in her life: they both experienced events sprung from limited life situations that led them to do things they should not have done. The plot—a boy does wrong and gets a second chance at living rightly—reflects what Mrs. Jones says of her own life: "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get."

The setting is initially on the street, but is primarily in Mrs. Jones's home, which, as Roger sees, is a reflection of her life, a life in which needs are simply met, but modest gifts are given nonetheless. The characters are linked by the "contact" Roger makes with Mrs. Jones's life:

"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."

The characters are also linked by the common life experience of making a bad start and needing to be given help at living a "presentable" life.

"I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know. So you set down while I fix us something to eat. You might run that comb through your hair so you will look presentable."

Beyond the links of "contact" and past experience, Mrs. Jones creates another link between herself and the boy by giving him forgiveness and understanding; by giving him a lesson in knowing "right from wrong"; by showing him the true spirit of generosity and compassion: "take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes." Through her actions and reflections of her own life, Mrs. Jones and Roger become linked for a lifetime, though neither can manage their emotion enough to say so:

"Good-night! Behave yourself, boy!" she said, looking out into the street.

The boy wanted to say something else other than "Thank you, m’am" to Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, but he couldn’t do so as he turned at the barren stoop and looked back at the large woman in the door.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What main events take place in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes?

There is a message behind the short story, Thank You M'am,by Langston Hughes. The boy, Roger, tries to steal Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones' purse but is stopped by the woman herself with everything in her large purse, except "hammer and nails."

She enquires about his dirty face and wonders - "Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?”- whereupon she decides to take him home with her, letting him know "“If you think that that contact is not going to last awhile, you got another thought coming." She intends to make him understand right from wrong.

It seems the boy's motive for stealing Mrs Jones' "pocketbook" was not for food but so he can buy some "blue suede shoes." he considers running away from her on a few occasions but does not and listens as she tells him that she too "were young once and I wanted things I could not get.” 

Roger waits for his food, even offering to go to the store for her as "he did not want to be mistrusted now." It is not, however necessary. Mrs Jones gives him $10 before sending him on his way, to buy the shoes he wants "because shoes come by devilish like that will burn your feet." She wants him to understand that stealing is wrong. The boy is speechless and only just manages to thank Mrs Jones. The two never meet again.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on