THANK YOU MAM Langston Hughes SUMMARY At about
THANK YOU M’AM Langston Hughes
SUMMARY • At about eleven o’clock at night, the boy attacks the woman with the purpose of stealing her purse, but he is taken by surprize by the weight of the purse and loses his balance. The woman, evidently very strong, grabs him tightly and begins questioning him. She expresses her wish to take the boy home, wash his face and teach him the difference between right and wrong, just as she would do with her own son. The woman grabs the boy and drags him on the street until she reaches her house. • Once home, the woman makes the boy wash his face and make himself presentable. He tells her that his name is Roger and that he wanted to steal her purse in order to get money to buy a new pair of blue suede shoes. The woman tells him that he should have asked her nicely. She prepares something to eat and, as they do, she tells the boy that she also wanted things that she could not have in her youth and that she also did unspeakable things. The woman talks about her current job in a beauty shop and invites the boy to eat until he is full. • After they finish eating, she gives the boy ten dollars to buy the pair of blue suede shoes he wished for. She tells him to stay out of trouble and stop stealing; otherwise the stolen money would not serve him right. The boy is too shocked even to say thank you and simply watches as the woman closes the door in his face.
CHARACTERS MRS. JONES • Mrs. Jones Mrs. Luella is the protagonist of the story. She is initially described as a large woman who can definitely take care of herself when alone in the street at night. • She is African-American, but this is not revealed from the beginning. Instead, the author leaves it to the reader to find out that Mrs. Luella is black only when she begins to talk. Her accent and style of speaking reveal that she is black. • Mrs. Luella is definitely a strong and fearless woman. She reacts immediately, according to her instincts. • She is proud and intelligent. She notices that her attacker is a young, scared boy and she wishes to teach him a life lesson • When analyzing Mrs. Luella, take a moment and focus on her name. “Luella” is a typical modest African-American first name.
CHARACTERS ROGER • Roger is a boy of fifteen who initially appears as an attacker and a thief. • Still, he is not as he appears to be. Mrs. Luella is the first to notice that he is not a thief. • When Mrs. Luella grasps him, the boy is obviously very scared. He can only respond “Yes’m” and “No’m” when she asks him a few questions. The fact that he addresses her with “madam” shows that he is quite polite and afraid. • Roger is a boy who values appearances more than his real needs. He is quite hungry, but he does not even think about buying food with the stolen money. Instead, his only purpose is to buy shoes. Mrs. Luella understands him and takes him home to feed him and make him presentable. • Eventually, the boy is fed, lectured and given the money he needed. He is so amazed by the woman’s behavior that he can barely thank her.
THEME TRUST • 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 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. • 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.
THEM DIGNITY & SOLIDARITY • 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. • 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. She even tells him that he should have simply asked her for money in a respectful manner and she would have granted his wish. • The boy was probably not used to see people being as noble as Mrs. Luella. Another person would have immediately told him off or called the police, but the woman shows a noble character and takes him in. She even gives him a lesson about dignity when she tells him to wash his face and make himself presentable. In her opinion, dignity is associated with clean looks and a clean house. • She also displays dignity when sharing a meal with a boy whom others would not see with friendly eyes. She respects him and does not want to make him feel embarrassed. Overall, we can say that Mrs. Luella displays a type of dignity that should characterize any human being.