Thank You, M’am
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Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Langston Hughes's Thank You, M’am . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Thank You, M’am: Introduction
Thank you, m’am: plot summary, thank you, m’am: detailed summary & analysis, thank you, m’am: themes, thank you, m’am: quotes, thank you, m’am: characters, thank you, m’am: symbols, thank you, m’am: theme wheel, brief biography of langston hughes.
Historical Context of Thank You, M’am
Other books related to thank you, m’am.
- Full Title: “Thank You, M’am”
- When Written: 1950s
- When Published: 1958
- Literary Period: Harlem Renaissance
- Genre: Short story
- Setting: An unnamed city at night
- Climax: Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones gives Roger ten dollars to buy a pair of shoes before sending him on his way
- Antagonist: Poverty
- Point of View: Third person
Extra Credit for Thank You, M’am
Age-Old Parental Pressure. Hughes attended two colleges: first Columbia, which he left because of racial discrimination by his fellow students. Several years later, he took up studies at Lincoln College. At both schools, his father insisted he would only pay for his college if he studied engineering.
Thank You, M'am
by Langston Hughes
What is the theme expressed in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes?
One theme expressed in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes is the importance of extending grace to others, even if those people don't particularly deserve it. By doing so, Mrs. Jones demonstrates the power of one person to transform another person's life.
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"What is the theme expressed in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes?" eNotes Editorial , 14 Feb. 2021, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-is-the-theme-expressed-in-thank-you-m-am-by-461386. Accessed 15 Mar. 2023.
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Educator since 2017
One of the themes of “Thank You, Ma'am” is the importance of giving someone a second chance.
Mrs. Jones knows from personal experience what it's like to go without and to want to have nice things. So she's able to develop empathy for Roger, to step into his shoes and treat him with kindness and consideration. Instead of marching him off to the nearest police station, as many people in her position would do, she resolves to give the young tearaway a second chance.
Mrs. Jones evidently sees something in the young lad that convinces her that he'll respond positively to her giving him a second chance. And the initial signs, at least, are very good. For although Roger has an additional opportunity of stealing Mrs. Jones's purse when her back is turned, he doesn't take it. It would be all too easy for Roger to snatch the purse and run out of Mrs. Jones's door. And this time she wouldn't be able to catch him.
That he doesn't do this is due in no small part to Mrs. Jones giving him a second chance, an opportunity to show what kind of a person he really is beneath this less than impressive exterior.
M.A. from Clemson University
Educator since 2019
One theme that becomes apparent in "Thank You, Ma'am" is the importance of extending grace—even to those who don't deserve it.
Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones would have certainly been justified to seek punishment for Roger. Roger's choice to prey on an elderly woman so that he could purchase new shoes for himself is fairly despicable. Yet Mrs. Jones seeks to understand why Roger had attempted to victimize her, and then she makes great efforts to help him.
Mrs. Jones quickly realizes that Roger doesn't have the support of family at home. As a result, his face is dirty and he looks as though he hasn't been fed well. Mrs. Jones takes the boy who attempted to mug her to her own house, cleaning him up and feeding him a decent meal.
She also takes the time to explain to Roger that he could make better choices in life, but she doesn't do so from a place of moral superiority. Instead, she is forthright with him:
"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."
Leaving her purse out in the open, Mrs. Jones demonstrates trust in Roger to make better decisions. And before he leaves, she makes sure that he has the money to purchase the new shoes—the same money he had tried to steal from her.
Mrs. Jones displays incredible grace in her treatment of a boy who didn't deserve it. Through her actions, Roger has hopefully recognized the importance of living by a higher moral code.
Educator since 2012
A theme is the primary point or perhaps the moral of a story, and there is always room for multiple themes; however, the primary theme of " Thank You, M'am " by Langston Hughes concerns the power of trust.
Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones is not about to let a teenage boy steal her purse, but she is also unwilling to let him go home hungry. She can see that he is suffering from neglect, as he appears to be rather dirty and unkempt, as if no one were really taking care of him. She determines to do something to help, and once they get to her house we learn why.
She assumes that Roger was trying to steal her purse because he was hungry, but Roger tells her he wanted money to buy a pair of blue suede shoes. Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones understands, saying after a few moments of reflection, “I were young once and I wanted things I could not get.” After an even longer pause and more silence, she says this:
“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.”
As the woman starts to prepare a meal, she does something unthinkable. She leaves her pocketbook on the bed and the door open, providing the perfect opportunity for a young man who really does have a criminal heart to take advantage of her. As she must have expected (or at least hoped), Roger is moved by her trust in him and does not take advantage of her.
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.
This is the greatest gift she could have given this boy, something much more significant than the ten dollars she gives him to buy the shoes for which he is willing to steal. For a young boy suffering from neglect, who is not important enough for anyone to take good care of, the trust that a perfect stranger offers him is a gift beyond measure. Her trust tells Roger that he has value and worth, and we know by his response that Mrs. Luella Bates Washington was right. Roger is not a bad boy, and he will be a better boy for having met this formidable and insightful woman.
Educator since 2015
A literary “theme” can take different forms. It can be the dominating idea or ideas of a text, but it can also be what the writer wishes to say about that idea—his message or moral, if you will.
In Langston Hughes’s “Thank You, Ma’am,” I’ll focus on the theme of respect. When Roger attempts to take Mrs. Jones’ purse, he’s only thinking of himself and what he wants. He has no respect for her or her belongings and it may be argued that he shows no respect for himself, either. She reacts by choosing to not treat him like a common thief, but with kindness and concern—with respect. She goes so far as to offer him dinner, but to not ask why he is on the streets alone and why he hasn’t eaten, in so doing respecting his individuality and his boundaries. In the course of the evening, when she goes behind a screen to cook, leaving her purse near the boy, he “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,” having discovered that “he did not want to be mistrusted now.” She showed him respect and he found himself wishing to be deserving of it.
He asks if she needs him to run to the store for anything, and she says not unless he wants some sweet milk to drink, but she was just going to make cocoa. He agrees that cocoa is fine. This simple exchange marks a change in the trust they have in one another. Before, his thoughts were bent on escape and she knew it. Now, he offers to run an errand—and opportunity for him to escape, possibly with her money—and she gives him the opportunity, but he turns her down. This trust established, the respect between them and in particular, his self-respect deepens.
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Latest answer posted October 06, 2020 at 10:46:11 AM
How would you compare and contrast the characters of Roger and Mrs. Jones in the short story "Thank You, M'am"?
Latest answer posted February 24, 2021 at 1:07:57 PM
In "Thank You, M'am," what does Roger do when Mrs. Jones leaves him alone with her purse? Why does he do this? How have Roger's behavior and attitude changed?
Latest answer posted February 05, 2021 at 12:45:18 PM
What are Mrs. Jones's character traits in the story "Thank You, M'am"?
Latest answer posted January 07, 2021 at 7:09:49 AM
How does Mrs. Jones's response to Roger's actions contribute to the development of the theme in "Thank You, M'am"?
Latest answer posted May 23, 2020 at 3:49:19 PM
What is the conflict in "Thank You, M'am"?
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“Thank You Ma’am” Summary: Theme & Analysis by Langston Hughes (Like Sparknotes)
This story, sometimes titled “Thank You, M’am”, is a popular short story for students . It’s about a boy who tries to steal money from a woman. He ends up getting it, as well as a potentially life-changing lesson.
“Thank You, Ma’am” Summary
Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, a large woman with a large purse, walks home late at night. A frail boy of about fourteen, Roger, runs up behind her and grabs her purse, breaking the strap and falling down from the momentum.
Roger washes his face at Mrs. Jones’s order. There’s no one home at his place, so he hasn’t eaten. Roger wants ten dollars for a pair of blue suede shoes. Mrs. Jones says he didn’t have to steal her purse for the money; he could have asked.
She serves supper. While they eat, she talks about her job in a hotel beauty parlor. She doesn’t ask Roger any personal questions.
“Thank You, Ma’am” Summary of Alternate Ending
There seem to be two published versions of the ending to “Thank You, Ma’am.” The variation seems to only be in the final paragraph:
It also omits the final statement that Roger never sees Mrs. Jones again. This statement works fine, as it stresses the uniqueness of this experience for Roger, and its likely life-changing effect on him. It isn’t necessary, though, for us to infer this effect on Roger. It’s very possible they would have seen each other in the neighborhood again, and I don’t see why that would diminish this interaction.
Theme of “Thank You, Ma’am”: Kindness
First, she doesn’t call the police on him, which she’s perfectly entitled to do. She could have just roughed Roger up a bit as revenge, and then turned him over to the authorities.
Fifth, she gives Roger the ten dollars he wants for the shoes. This is the greatest and most unexpected gesture of kindness. This recalls her statement about wanting things when she was young that she couldn’t have. She understands how Roger feels and gives him the means to get what he wants honestly. (see Empathy)
Theme of “Thank You, Ma’am”: Empathy
Mrs. Jones knows that Roger has reasons for stealing. She bonds with him by establishing common ground, empathizing with him when she says, “I were young once and I wanted things I could not get.” Roger seems to expect her to lord it over him because she didn’t become a thief, like he did, but she doesn’t do this. She tells him she’s also done things she’s not proud of, things she’s too embarrassed to tell anyone about.
Empathizing with Roger effects him for the better, as he doesn’t want to take the purse now, which is unguarded. He even moves away from it and sits where Mrs. Jones can keep an eye on him.
Theme of “Thank You, Ma’am”: Parental Authority
The fact that Roger is missing parental authority is emphasized when Mrs. Jones says, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong.”
We see that Roger is craving some parental instruction when Mrs. Jones tells him to wash his face. He’s free to run away at this point, and seems like he’s considering it, but he does what she says.
What is indicated by how Roger addresses Mrs. Jones?
As he leaves her home, he wants to say something even more meaningful than “Thank you, M’am.” Rather than viewing her as a vague authority figure or some woman from the street, Roger now feels closer to her and indebted to her for her kindness. There’s no form of address he can use that will properly express his gratitude.
Thank You Ma’am | Summary and Analysis
Summary of thank you, ma'am by langston hughes.
Thank You, Ma’am, by Langston Hughes, is a short story that deals with the themes of shame, trust, dignity, and second chances. The story revolves around an incident wherein a teenager named Roger attempts to steal a woman’s purse. In what follows, the manner in which the woman, a certain Mrs. Luella Jones, deals with the situation causes a shift in Roger’s perspective in this beautiful story that highlights the power of choice whilst engaging with emotions of empathy, guilt, fear, and kindness.
Thank You, Ma’am | Summary
Thank You, Ma’am is written in the third person, with an unnamed narrator. It focuses on two characters- a straightforward and compassionate woman named Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, and a fifteen-year-old boy named Roger who learns a lesson after attempting to steal her purse. The story begins with a description of a woman, whom we later come to know is Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. She has a huge bag strapped around her shoulders, and it contains almost everything she needs. She is walking down the street alone at eleven o’clock in the night when she feels someone tug the strap- but alas, the bag is too heavy for the boy who tried to snatch it. Instead of pulling it and running away, he falls to the floor from its weight, and Mrs. Jones gives him a kick and demands that he pick up her pocketbook. After he does so, she asks him whether he was ashamed of himself for his actions. The boy says yes, and pretends he didn’t mean to aim for the bag, though Mrs. Jones believes none of it.
The boy says if he is let go, he will leave immediately, so Mrs. Jones doesn’t let him go. He seems to be about fifteen years old, gaunt and frail and with an unkempt appearance, and she drags him down the corner to her house so that he can wash his face. He is not enthusiastic, but Mrs. Jones reminds him that he is the one who initiated contact by bumping into her, so he really doesn’t have an option. She learns, as she says she will not be taking him to hail, that his name is Roger and that there is nobody at his house and he doesn’t have a meal to eat.
She then gets up and moves behind the screen, leaving her purse on the table with Roger and not giving a glance back to check. He could take it and run, but at that moment, he feels the importance of trust. He does not want to be mistreated or distrusted by Mrs. Jones, and with that newfound sense of dignity, asks her whether she needs someone to buy her milk or run her errands, to which she says not unless he wants sweetened milk. They eat together, and Mrs. Jones tells him about her job and life. She does not ask him about his own, or anything else that may make him feel embarrassed. As she cuts him a piece of cake, she tells him to “ Eat more, son.”
Finally, as they finish the meal and there is no more reason for Roger to stay, Mrs. Jones gives him ten dollars to buy the new pair of suede blue shoes he wanted. She makes him promise not to try and steal hers or anyone else’s pocketbooks now that he has the money, and tells him to behave himself as she opens the front door for him to leave. Roger wants to say “ Thank you, Ma’am .” but he is hardly able to get the words out before she closes the door, and the two of them never meet again.
Thank You, Ma’am | Analysis
The story begins by establishing Mrs. Jones’s character. Contrary to the worry one may have about a woman walking alone late at night, she asserts herself as a strong and capable person. We can also see that the boy is not only physically fragile, but also immediately terrified. Hence, the readers get a clear idea about the contrasting dynamic between them. This dynamic may be different from the readers’ natural expectations, and it is important to note that this is another overarching theme of this story- expectations and how they are formed and broken. Not just the expectations of the readers, but the expectations Mrs. Jones and Roger may have of each other at first sight. We will see more of this theme later in the analysis.
When Mrs. Jones begins dragging Roger to her house, he is visibly terrified. The theme of fear makes itself clear, as Roger has no idea what will happen to him. Hughes’s physical description of him, however- young, frail, with battered shoes, gives readers the impression that he is not well-off. Because of this, the initial hostility one may have felt towards him because of his attempted thievery dwindles into sympathy or curiosity. We can assume here that Roger’s act of stealing stemmed from his need for money. Of course, this does not fix the action- thievery is morally wrong- but readers understand that the intention was not out of malice but rather out of desire or desperation. Mrs. Jones probably notices the same thing on looking at him, which is why she decides to take him to her house to wash up instead of turning him in to the police. At the same time, she did “kick him in the seat of his jeans” and “hold him up by the collar” when he first tried to take her purse. She did this out of instinctive self-defense first and foremost, and also to assert the fact that she could not be easily duped, nor was it right to steal anyone’s items. This is what instilled the fear in Roger, which remained palpable through a greater part of the story.
The next important point to note is that Roger says he “does not have anyone at home”. From this, it can be assumed that he either lives alone, does not have parents who look after him or does not even have a stable shelter. In any case, he has probably never been scolded for something like not washing his face, or been reprimanded for the moral wrongness of thievery. Mrs. Jones’s tone, though stern, is also empathetic which creates an almost maternal effect. This is something Roger seems to lack in his life, which is one of the reasons it has a profound impact on him. He even asks whether she needs someone to run errands for her, showing his guilt at having tried to rob her and his wish to do something in return. The very reason he does not run away even when he has the chance and considers it is because of this.
Roger then says he did not want the money to buy food, but to buy a new pair of higher-priced shoes. This may come as a surprise to some readers- why would he spend the money on a want instead of a need? All this time, it may have been assumed that his attempt at thievery was due to his lack of food and shelter, but now we see that it was to buy fancy shoes. While shoes themselves are important, why do they need to be blue suede ones specifically? But Mrs. Jones immediately understands and empathizes, for she has been in a similar position when she was younger. These blue suede shoes are something that seem almost unattainable to Roger, unlike food which he may manage to find some of as the days go by. The idea of possessing such an item will elevate the feeling of belonging within Roger- it will make him feel like he is more than his homelessness or his supposedly inferior social status. These shoes symbolize luxury and a step forward in life. Though readers might argue that it is unnecessary, such purchases of indulgence are what seem to increase Roger’s sense of self-worth, and emotional satisfaction is of huge importance especially for a boy of that age. The only issue is that he resorted to stealing, which is quickly rectified by Mrs. Jones.
When Mrs. Jones talks about her own past experiences, Roger waits for her to add that despite everything, she never went around stealing. To his surprise, there is no such dialogue- instead, she hints that she may have done the same as Roger in the past, if not worse, and has learnt from the situation. This is a twist for Roger, and a clear instance where Mrs. Jones has undermined his expectation of what he thought she would say. This establishes a closer connection between them. This is why, when Mrs. Jones leaves Roger with the wallet, Roger does not want to break her trust, and therefore does not steal the wallet. Further, it is not mentioned whether Mrs. Jones thinks he will take it or not, but we may assume she trusts him by the fact that she left him alone. This is yet another example of expectations- the expectation she has on his dignity, of which he feels the weight and chooses not to break.
Here, we see the themes of trust, dignity and second chances. Mrs. Jones gives Roger a second chance by leaving him with her pocketbook. This time, he makes the right decision, thereby redeeming himself. This choice was made by him because he did not want her to not trust him anymore. This meant he felt the weight of her trust and understood how important it is not to break such a fragile thing. It may have been the first time in his life someone has treated him so kindly, tried to help him understand right from wrong, and even offer him a chance to right his mistakes, and Roger does not want to undermine that level of goodness. He finally finds his sense of dignity. After spending so long stealing people’s money to buy things, he makes the morally right decision at a crucial time and this also teaches him a lesson. In the end, Mrs. Jones gives him a ten-dollar note- this can almost be seen as an unexpected reward: had he tried to run away with the pocketbook when it was left on the table, she might’ve caught him again. Then, the trust would be broken and he would be sent away in disgrace without food or money. Now, he has had a pleasant evening, eaten some food, and even received ten dollars to buy his shoes. The effect of upholding trust, making the right decision, and showing dignity are immediately showcased.
Mrs. Jones shows Roger out just as quickly and abruptly as she brought him in. He wants to thank her- and it is likely the first time he is genuinely grateful to someone, for not many people may have acted so kindly towards him before. He wants to say “Thank you, Ma’am”, but she closes the door before he can finish. This is in line with the title of the story, which encapsulates the feeling in Roger’s heart and the words he wanted to say. He and Mrs. Jones never met again, but it is safe to assume that their interaction impacted Roger heavily and remained in his mind for a long time. This represents how small acts of kindness can go a long way, and even if they never meet again, one empathetic interaction between two strangers can be life-changing and can give someone some much-needed hope.
About the Author
Langston Hughes was an American poet and writer born in 1901. He was one of the early leaders of jazz poetry . He often wrote about his experiences as an African-American and was the leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes passed away in 1967, at 66 years old
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Thank You Ma’am Analysis – Setting, Characters, and Themes by Langston Hughes
Updated 22 July 2022
Subject Books , Writers
Topic Langston Hughes , Poetry , Thank You Ma Am
In this Thank You Ma’am analysis, I’ll talk about the Setting, Characters, and Themes of this powerful piece by Langston Hughes. After reading the poem, you should have a better idea of why the story is so compelling. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s well worth reading. It is an excellent example of the importance of reading a piece of literature thoroughly before deciding whether or not to study it further.
Characters The short story “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes has a few key themes that focus on shame, dignity, and second chances. The story follows the life of a fifteen-year-old boy, Roger, and a kindhearted woman, Mrs. Luella Jones. In the short story, the power of choice is highlighted through the dialogue that Roger exchanges with the woman. In this thank you ma’am analysis, we will explore how Mrs. Jones changes Roger’s perspective through the interaction with her.
Despite the short story having only two characters, Langston Hughes used indirect characterization to establish their personalities. This method of development allowed the reader to see a different side of each character than the main character, which allowed the audience to see both of them through a broader perspective. In the story, the two main characters, Roger and Luella, are described as being different and unique. The similarities between the two characters are evident in both their differences and similarities.
Setting “Setting a Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes can be difficult to pinpoint. Although the story is written in the 1950s, Hughes didn’t explicitly state where the story takes place. The story itself is based around race and racism in pre-Civil Rights Era America. The story’s setting, however, is an important part of the overall context. As such, setting can provide insight into the character’s motivations.
The story is set in Harlem, New York, and depicts the complexities of second chances. As the main character, Roger, a young man in need of basic necessities, is trying to steal the purse from Mrs. Jones, he stumbles and falls to the floor, but Mrs. Jones kicks him mercilessly. As a result, the plot of the story becomes more complex than initially suspected.
Themes Langston Hughes’s story “Thank You, Ma’am” is about trust and dignity. In the story, a boy, Roger, tries to steal a woman’s pocketbook, but she forgave him for trying. She also feeds him, making him lima beans and ham, and serving him hot cocoa. Mrs. Jones’s compassion for Roger helps him understand her situation, and she forgives him later.
Despite the conflict in the story, the main theme of the short story is the importance of second chances. Both Langston Hughes’ story and Saki’s story feature themes of forgiveness and kindness. These themes are woven throughout both stories in a subtle way. Themes are a key aspect of these stories, and these themes are often hidden in unexpected places. In “Thank You, Ma’am,” for example, the theme is hidden in the beginning, but it is not obvious until the end.
Themes in Langston Hughes’ “Thank You Ma’am” The theme of poverty dominates the plot of “Thank You Ma’am.” The protagonist, Roger, tries to steal Mrs. Jones’ purse in order to buy shoes. Hughes depicts this poor character in subtle ways, such as by showing her living in a rooming house with a small kitchen and late hours. She also addresses her own poverty in a direct dialogue with Roger.
Themes in Langston Hughes’ “Thank you Ma’am” can be categorized into two broad categories. Themes of kindness and trust are prevalent, as are the themes of poverty and racism. The protagonist, Roger, is a young black boy who attempts to steal a purse from a white woman. In response, Mrs. Jones feeds and teaches him to be grateful and give back. In a way, this story is about caring for the disadvantaged and the poor.
Despite its complexity, “Thank You Ma’am” is a short story about the power of kindness. Although it involves a flippant young boy named Roger, it portrays the struggles and triumphs of two different worlds. In a time of racism, the story depicts the culture and values of 1950s America, and Hughes uses literary devices to create a twist in the reader’s expectations. In doing so, the author develops a deeper meaning for the African characters.
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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Thank You Ma Am — A Theme of Compassion in “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes
A Theme of Compassion in "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes
- Subject: Life , Literature
- Category: Emotions & Feelings , Writers , Books
- Essay Topic: Compassion , Langston Hughes , Thank You Ma Am
- Published: 29 Jun 2021
- Downloads: 95
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Thank You, Ma'am
by Langston Hughes
Thank you, ma'am summary and analysis of paragraphs 1 – 14.
Narrated by an unnamed third-person limited omniscient narrator, “Thank You Ma’am” opens with the story’s protagonist, a teenage boy named Roger , attempting to steal the purse of Mrs. Jones, the antagonist.
Mrs. Jones is a large woman with a large purse containing many things. At eleven o’clock at night on a street in an unspecified city, Mrs. Jones is walking alone when Roger runs up behind her and grabs the purse.
The strap breaks when he tugs the purse, but the weight of the purse makes him lose balance. He falls on the sidewalk. The attempted robbery does not frighten Mrs. Jones: she turns around and kicks Roger in the bottom.
Mrs. Jones picks Roger up by the front of his shirt and shakes him until his teeth rattle. She commands Roger to pick up her purse and return it to her, continuing to hold him but giving him enough slack to bend down to lift the purse.
She asks if he is ashamed of himself, and Roger says that he is. She asks why he did it and Roger says he “didn’t aim to.” Mrs. Jones accuses him of lying. Passersby stop to watch the scene unfolding.
Mrs. Jones asks Roger if she lets him go if he will try to run away. Roger politely responds that he will. Mrs. Jones says she won’t turn him loose then, and she continued to grasp his shirt.
Roger whispers that he is very sorry. Mrs. Jones expresses disbelief and mild outrage. She says that his face is dirty, and she thinks she should wash it for him. She asks if he has anybody at home to tell him to wash his face.
Roger says that he does not. Mrs. Jones says that in that case she will wash his face that evening. She walks up the street, dragging the frightened Roger behind her.
The narrator comments that Roger looks as though he is fourteen or fifteen. He is frail and willowy, and wears tennis shoes and blue jeans. While dragging him, Mrs. Jones tells Roger that if he were her son, she would teach him right from wrong. The least she can do is wash his face.
Mrs. Jones asks if he is hungry. Roger replies that he isn’t hungry. He says he just wants her to let him go. Mrs. Jones ignores Roger’s request that she turn him loose.
In the opening scene of the story, Langston Hughes establishes the comical tone of “Thank You Ma’am” by describing Roger's almost cartoonish failure to steal Mrs. Jones’s purse. Although Mrs. Jones’s large size and seeming vulnerability as a woman walking alone at night makes her appear to be an ideal target for theft, Roger discovers that Mrs. Jones’s purse is so heavy that he can’t snatch it without falling over.
In the first of what will be many instances of situational irony in the story, Roger winds up on the ground with Mrs. Jones standing over him, not at all frightened by the would-be thief. More than anything, Mrs. Jones is incensed by the undignified position of having her purse on the ground. To rectify the situation and save face while teaching the boy a lesson, she grabs Roger by the shirt and lowers him to the ground, making him lift the purse up for her.
The thematic preoccupation with dignity continues when Mrs. Jones asks Roger if he is ashamed of himself. Completely at the mercy of this overpowering woman, he politely admits that he is ashamed. The same politeness turns comical when Roger admits he will try to run away if Mrs. Jones releases her grip on his shirt. It is only then that Roger apologizes for his crime.
Realizing that she is dealing with a weak and frightened boy and not a hardened criminal, Mrs. Jones addresses Roger with familiarity, speaking to him as though he were her own child. The theme of dignity arises again when she notices that his face is dirty and scolds him because of it. In this instance of situational irony, Mrs. Jones treats having an unwashed face as though it is a worse crime than attempting to steal her purse.
Mrs. Jones's actions continue to build situational irony, as she decides to drag Roger home to teach him how to wash his face. While Roger is unaware of what she is doing with him, Mrs. Jones asks the boy if he is hungry. He doesn’t trust the woman enough to answer honestly the first time she asks, and repeats that he simply wants to be turned loose. Roger does not realize that Mrs. Jones asks if he is hungry out of genuine concern for him. This moment subtly introduces the theme of generosity, which will only become more relevant as the story progresses.
Thank You, Ma'am Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Thank You, Ma'am is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Which statement best expresses the theme of the story?
B. People are more likely to learn and practice good behavior when it is taught to them with kindness.
Without saying it explicitly, Mrs. Jones reveals that she assumed he had come from such a desperate, impoverished situation; otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to steal her purse. However, Roger confesses that he actually wanted her purse so that he...
When Roger says he wanted to buy a pair of blue suede shoes, Mrs. Jones says he didn’t have to try to rob her if he wanted suede shoes.... he could have asked her.
Study Guide for Thank You, Ma'am
Thank You, Ma'am study guide contains a biography of Langston Hughes, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About Thank You, Ma'am
- Thank You, Ma'am Summary
- Character List
Essays for Thank You, Ma'am
Thank You, Ma'am essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Thank You, Ma'am by Langston Hughes.
- Character Comparison Essay: "The Scarlet Ibis" and "Thank You Ma'am"
- I wonder where Christ's gone”: A Marxist Critique of Organized Religion in Langston Hughes’ “ On The Road”
- Jazz Subculture in Short American Fiction: The Blues I'm Playing and Sonny's Blues
- The Bounds of Society Cripple Those Who Dare to be Different: Comparing "Seven People Dancing" and "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"
Lesson Plan for Thank You, Ma'am
- About the Author
- Study Objectives
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to Thank You, Ma'am
- Relationship to Other Books
- Bringing in Technology
- Notes to the Teacher
- Related Links
- Thank You, Ma'am Bibliography
- Thank you, M'am | Analysis
The main themes of the short story “Thank you, M’am” by Langston Hughes are trust and dignity. In what follows you can read an useful discussion about these two themes.
- Symbols: the blue suede shoes
- Motif: food, the door
Trust is a very important theme in the short story. As you have seen, Mrs. Luella brings the boy home without any trace of fear. She trusts him enough to allow him near her unguarded purse while she goes to another side of the room to prepare something to eat: “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.” (p. 160, ll. 6-8)
The boy finds it intriguing that the woman trusts him. He does not want to give her any reason why she might treat him like a criminal:
But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room, away from the purse, 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. (p. 160, ll. 8-12)
What do you make of the woman’s trust towards the boy? Reflect on the fact that he tried to attack her without remorse. The trust displayed by the woman is meant to make the boy reflect on his conditions and on the decisions he is about to make. Mrs. Luella may have been the only adult who has shown him trust and who has believed in his self-control.
Dignity is another important theme in the short story. To have dignity means to have a noble soul and to display respect towards others. In “Thank you, M’am”, Mrs. Luella is the embodiment of this theme. She is noble and loving and she understands what it means to be young and misunderstood: “I was young once and I wanted things I could not get.” (p. 159, ll. 39-40)
Dignity is shown when the woman decides not to call the police and give the boy another chance. She understands the fact that he needs guidance and she tries to demonstrate him that it is not difficult to find dignity...
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Thank You Ma Am Theme Essay
The Theme of “Thank You, Ma'am” The Five Elements of a story and novel are the theme, the plot, the setting, characters, and conflict. However, each element should rely and emphasize each other throughout the story. A prime example of this is found in the short story, “Thank You, Ma'am.” The story was written in 1958 by Langston Hughes. It is about a poor boy named Roger, who tries to steal a woman's purse. The woman, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, responds, however, in a very unexpected way. Mrs. Jones takes Roger, who tried to steal from her, to her house and shows him kindness. So the first theme of “Thank You, Ma'am” is 'be kind to everyone, even if they don't deserve it.' But, then, Mrs. Jones later reveals to him that she, too, used to be just like Roger, and that she used to steal and do worse things than that. Thus, the second theme is 'you can always work past and issue and …show more content…
In this essay, the author
- Analyzes how the five elements of a story and novel are the theme, plot, setting, characters, and conflict. each element should rely and emphasize each other throughout the story.
- Analyzes how the only two characters in the story are mrs. luella jones and roger. they are depicted as complete opposites before we begin to know them more.
- Analyzes how the plot conveys the themes the most out of all four elements. mrs. luella and roger both have two goals to reach.
- Analyzes how the conflict and setting, as well as the figurative language, portray the themes of the story.
- Analyzes how the story revolves around mrs. luella trying to give roger a better mindset. both parties win, and roger leaves with ten dollars.
Though the author doesn't state exactly where the story takes place, “there are some clues on where the story is set. Langston Hughes' stories usually revolve around African-Americans living in a segregated America. (Langston Hughes)” It's then safe to assume that this story is set in the 1950's, the actual time Hughes wrote the story. In addition to that, an Elvis Presley song called, “ Blue Suede Shoes ” was popular in the 1950's, so the story could've been making a reference towards that song. The story takes place at night, which could be a symbol for Roger's confusion and desperation. The conflict of the story revolves around Roger's bad decisions and Mrs. Luella trying to help him. Roger wants shoes, but Mrs. Luella tells him, “shoes earned by devilish ways will burn your feet.” This is another example of figurative language given. Mrs. Luella probably learned that the hard way, and is now trying to help Roger, thus creating the second theme, and also highlighting the first
- Analyzes how the theme in sherman alexie's short story, "this is what it means to say phoenix, arizona," is the message or big idea that is trying to reveal. strong themes are man versus self conflict, family, and tribal identity.
- Explains that man vs. self conflict is defined as a protagonist that is struggling to come to terms with his or her own prejudices and abilities.
- Analyzes how victor's old childhood friend, thomas builds-the-fire, decides to let him accompany him to phoenix, but he struggles with his guilt and doesn't understand why thomas lends him money.
- Analyzes how victor's father left his family because he felt resentful towards his father, but was obligated to bring him back to the reservation.
- Analyzes how the theme of tribal identity teaches readers to not be ashamed of where they come from.
- Analyzes how alexie's "this is what it means to say phoenix, arizona" reflects and introduces a good message to readers.
- Explains that themes point out the meaning of a story so it doesn't leave the reader hanging. in to kill a mockingbird, there are three main themes that help tie any lose ends in the story.
- Analyzes how the book promotes the coexistence of good and evil through the transformation of scout and jem's view of childhood innocence and the danger of hatred, prejudice, and ignorance.
- Analyzes the importance of moral education in to kill a mockingbird. the relationship between atticus and his children is the prime example of its importance.
- Analyzes the three main themes explored in to kill a mockingbird: side-by-side existence of good and evil, the importance of moral education, and the presence of social inequality.
- Analyzes how fitzgerald uses many motifs in the great gatsby to convey all sorts of different themes. the idea of true love is just a dream that can be bought with money through cheating.
- Analyzes how tom buchanan is a man who believes he can have anything or anyone because of his social status.
- Analyzes how james gatsby grew up being an unwealthy man. he met daisy five years before the story took place but lost her because he didn't have enough money.
- Analyzes how gatsby and daisy's affair led to her becoming more confident. she realized she didn't need tom because she had another man who could support her if she wanted.
- Analyzes how the characters are so reckless in the story really demonstrates their stand points on love. they believe that for the right amount, a person’s love can be bought.
- Explains i, too is an inspiring poem that represents african americans before civil rights were enforced. langston hughes uses his life experience, inspiration, and intelligence to create this poem.
- Analyzes how langston hughes' experience comes from his life growing up as an african-american. his parents were divorced and his mother was raising him.
- Analyzes how langston hughes was inspired by the civil rights movement, which fought against jim crow laws and discrimination.
- Explains that langston's poem i is inspiring because he had the intelligence to do so.
- Analyzes how langston hughes used his experience as an african american, inspiration of the civil rights movement, and intelligence to create a memorable poem.
- Analyzes how langston hughes uses the theme of race in his poems to challenge the racial barriers that are placed on society.
- Analyzes how the poem "i too, sing america" uses race as a symbol of oppression on african americans as well as hope for the future.
- Analyzes how theme for english b discusses the theme of race throughout the entire poem, but the racial theme is expressed in a different way than i too, sing america.
- Analyzes how "let america be america again" provides the theme of race as a way to view how the color of someone’s skin can lead to inequality.
- Concludes that langston hughes uses race in his poems as a way to break down the racial barriers that are placed on society.
- Analyzes how hughes uses the thoughts of the black male to indicate the actions he will take to change his life, whether good or bad.
- Analyzes how hughes portrays the white family as demanding and not wanting to give any effort to help the black man, not in a sense of money but emotionally.
- Analyzes how langston hughes' poem, "i, too, sing america," states real-life situations of the constant battle of racism in the world.
- Analyzes how hughes describes the black man as going on a mini-protest in some aspects. the reason behind the "black lives matter" protest is to have equality in the united states.
- Opines that racial oppression is not an easy thing to cope with, as it takes a strong courageous person to set aside what others may think of them by protesting to make themselves feel equal to society.
- Explains that the key ingredients that one throws into the mixing bowl are what drive and push the excellence that is produced by the team. a story will never be complete or whole without addressing the important elements that a reader wants to see.
- Analyzes how ernest hemingway uses elements such as point of view, setting, plot, conflict, theme, character, and resolution to build and construct a writing masterpiece throughout his story.
- Explains that the theme of a story holds the ability to position the sharp thoughts of or main character into the story.
- Explains that the theme of a story is used to parallel the thoughts of the reader with the thought of an author. the reader would be left empty if the story didn't have an imprint.
- Explains that thematic statements are tricky to catch. authors use the tool of theme as a chance to share their thoughts on the effects of the storyline.
- Analyzes how ernest hemingway does not hold back from giving the reader a chance to fall in love with the story. one of the most common themes in the book is war.
- Analyzes how the theme of dreams versus reality is strategically placed in a farewell to arms. henry and catherine, the main characters, are constantly battling yet another war with themselves.
- Explains that the theme is not the only important device when creating a successful piece of writing. where the story takes place is just as important as the message that is drug across.
- Opines that setting is a unique literary element. without setting, the roles that take place inside of the stories are pointless.
- Explains that setting can be as simple as 'a red house on a dirt road', or as complex as the dust of the road nearby flies into the air in the middle of july. setting makes the story become real.
- Analyzes how ernest hemingway's a farewell to arms uses the art of war to drive his story. the time, place, and social characteristics of this novel influence the impact left of the reader.
- Opines that if hemingway didn't elaborate or create his novel based off the setting he chose, the storyline would be empty. the setting is inevitable.
- Explains that character and point of view go hand-in-hand. character shows who or what is responsible for the main thoughts and actions in a narrative.
- Explains that a character's layers can be shown through different points of view in the story.
- Opines that point of view is key to writing because it allows the reader to be drawn in closer or further – in some cases- to the actions that take place within the story.
- Analyzes how characters and their motivations are shown through different points of view in a farewell to arms.
- Opines that no story is complete without a conflict or climax. it is the turning point initial motivation of the story.
- Explains that internal conflict is the emotional or intellectual struggle that a character feels throughout the story. external conflicts are marked by the struggle between the character and other outside forces.
- Explains that conflict between characters and opposing forces is very important to every story. it helps to foreshadow the future of the resolution inside of a piece of writing.
- Analyzes how multiple conflicts escalate throughout a farewell to arms. henry and catherine are constantly toying with each other's minds in order to distinguish between love, lust, and loneliness.
- Opines that if one adds together theme, setting, character, point of view, and conflict, the equation does not equal out to a great story.
- Explains that the resolution of a story is foreshadowed by the falling action. the resolution, also known as the denouement, is where the conflicts are solved.
- Analyzes how the ending of a farewell to arms is tragic. the death of henry and catherine's baby is shocking and panicked.
- Opines that little details can always be added into a storyline to make for greater novel or piece of work. literary devices such as tone, metaphors, satire, and mood can be easily woven into the pages of stories.
- Analyzes how ernest hemingway's a farewell to arms is a classic piece of literature that has always managed to find its way to the top of the readers list.
- Explains that a farewell to arms is a model for all works of writing. it shows that if one lines all of the necessary literary elements, one can keep the reader entertained and satisfied.
- Analyzes how the book thank you, ma'am by langston hughes has the theme of don't steal, be nice. roger tries to steal mrs.
- Analyzes how mrs.luella shows that you should be nice. she gives roger money to by the blue suede shoes and roger says thank you ma'am.
- Analyzes how poets use elements of poetry to show their themes, including similes, diction, and personification.
- Analyzes how langston hughes uses similes to convey his theme in "harlem."
- Analyzes how hughes' powerful use of diction conveys his theme very well.
- Analyzes hughes' use of imagery to show his theme of rotten meat and how dreams can be destroyed if one doesn't use them.
- Concludes that poets usually use elements of poetry to convey their theme. hughes uses similes, diction, and imagery to bring out his theme in "harlem".
- Analyzes how a roaring explosion muffles the voices of choir singers. worn-down bricks, colored glass, chucks of wood, and rubbish litter the sidewalk.
- Analyzes how the dramatic situation in the poem "ballad of birmingham" is portrayed through randall's use of descriptive imagery, dialogue, irony, and a tonal shift.
- Analyzes how randall's use of descriptive imagery shows the mother’s love for her daughter and sets up the dramatic situation.
- Analyzes how descriptive imagery adds to the dramatic situation by allowing the reader to picture the mother frantically digging through the crumbling remains of the church in search of her daughter.
- Analyzes how randall's use of dialogue and descriptive imagery adds additional emotion to the poem. dialogue helps demonstrates the depth of the relationship between the mother and daughter.
- Analyzes how randall gives the mother and daughter emotion add hype to the dramatic situation with a tonal shift. the child's tone is hopeful as she asks her mom if she can join the freedom march.
- Analyzes how the fearful and urgent tone is carried throughout the remaining stanzas of the poem as the mother scrambles towards the church only to find her daughter’s shoe.
- Analyzes how randall's use of irony adds to the dramatic situation by giving the reader a false sense of hope and then quickly taking it away.
- Analyzes how david randall uses descriptive imagery, dialogue, irony, and a tonal shift to give the poem emotion and draw the reader’s attention towards the dramatic situation.
- Blue Suede Shoes
- Elvis Presley
"Thank You, M'am" demonstrates that individuals make better choices—and even become more upstanding, more moral people—when they are honest about their shortcomings and mistakes.
Trust is a major theme in "Thank You Ma'am." Although Roger 's attempt at stealing Mrs. Jones's purse establishes a dynamic between the characters in which there is no trust, by the time Mrs. Jones drags Roger to her home, she has gained enough trust to let him loose to wash his face.
Historical Context of Thank You, M'am This story reflects the complex state of race relations in twentieth-century America. The placement of the story in an urban environment, perhaps Harlem itself, reflects the effect of the mass movement of black Americans from the rural South to urban coastal cities.
Langston Hughes' "Thank You, M'am" contains three main themes: love and trust, forgiveness, and dignity. After Roger tries to steal the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, the weight...
One of the themes of "Thank You, Ma'am" is the importance of giving someone a second chance. Mrs. Jones knows from personal experience what it's like to go without and to want to have nice...
"Thank You, Ma'am" Themes Second Chances —Mrs. Jones makes herself more human by admitting that she has done things wrong in the past. However, life gave her a second chance, just like she is...
The Transformative Effects of Empathy. At its core, "Thank You, M'am" is about the power of empathy to transform people's lives. In the most basic sense, this dynamic plays out in Mrs. Jones's decision to forgive rather than punish Roger; by recognizing and sympathizing with the impulses that led him to try to steal her purse, Mrs ...
Theme of "Thank You, Ma'am": Empathy Mrs. Jones wants to know about Roger and his motivation for the attempted theft. She sees and finds out several things: His face is dirty He's frail There's no one home at his place (it's after 11 P.M.) He wants money for a pair of blue suede shoes. Mrs. Jones knows that Roger has reasons for stealing.
Langston Hughes' book written in 1958, ''Thank you ma'am'' is set in Harlem New York during a time that New York experienced rapid population growth. It explores the effects of kindness and trust. The story is about a boy named Roger. In the beginning of... Thank You Ma Am Character Langston Hughes Topics:
Thank You, Ma'am, by Langston Hughes, is a short story that deals with the themes of shame, trust, dignity, and second chances. The story revolves around an incident wherein a teenager named Roger attempts to steal a woman's purse.
Maya civilization, often considered to be the most exalted and mysterious of the three, inhabited the Yucatan Peninsula of Eastern Mexico as long ago as 2,600 2,600 B.C. Emerging from a 10 10 collection of city-states with no central government, the Maya reached a cultural peak between A.D. 250 250 and 900 900.
Themes in Langston Hughes' "Thank you Ma'am" can be categorized into two broad categories. Themes of kindness and trust are prevalent, as are the themes of poverty and racism. The protagonist, Roger, is a young black boy who attempts to steal a purse from a white woman. In response, Mrs. Jones feeds and teaches him to be grateful and give back.
The central theme of Langston Hughes's short story 'Thank you, Ma'am' is that you have to be compassionate because compassion can bring change. Hughes supports his theme through Ms. Jones' actions and Roger's reactions to her treatment.
Analysis. In the opening scene of the story, Langston Hughes establishes the comical tone of "Thank You Ma'am" by describing Roger's almost cartoonish failure to steal Mrs. Jones's purse. Although Mrs. Jones's large size and seeming vulnerability as a woman walking alone at night makes her appear to be an ideal target for theft, Roger ...
Dignity is another important theme in the short story. To have dignity means to have a noble soul and to display respect towards others. In "Thank you, M'am", Mrs. Luella is the embodiment of this theme. She is noble and loving and she understands what it means to be young and misunderstood: "I was young once and I wanted things I could ...
3 MULTIPLE CHOICE OPTIONS. To have empathy for someone is. the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. 3 MULTIPLE CHOICE OPTIONS. A juvenile is a. young person. 3 MULTIPLE CHOICE OPTIONS. the verb latching means. grabbing.
The Theme of "Thank You, Ma'am" The Five Elements of a story and novel are the theme, the plot, the setting, characters, and conflict. However, each element should rely and emphasize each other throughout the story. A prime example of this is found in the short story, "Thank You, Ma'am.". The story was written in 1958 by Langston Hughes.