‘Thank You M’am’ is a short story which is written by Langston Hughes. The story takes place in the USA, in the street and in the woman house, where we meet Mrs Luella and Roger. In this article I am going to analyse this short story. At first I will summarise its plot, then I will discuss the main theme on it, and comment on the main characters and some literary devices. ‘Thank You M’am’ is about a boy called Roger and a large woman Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones. At eleven o’clock at night, the boy tries to snatch the woman’s pocketbook. But as he grabs the purse behind, the strap brakes, he loses his balance and fall son his back on the sidewalk. Mrs Luella simply turns and kicks him, while he lies down. She shakes roger and commands him to pick up her purse. After having a little talk with him, she decides to take him home to her house by dragging him. She gets him washed and fed. Then he admits that he wants to steal money, so he could by a pair of blue suede shoes.
Afterwards they have a conversation about her job. Right before Roger leaves, Mrs Luella gives him ten dollars. Roger wants to say something other than Thank you madam, while he tries to find the right words, she shut the door. The story stretches over a few hours, and it is set in a big city in America, most likely New York according picture’s information on p. 163 and the currency dollars are mention too. I will also say that it is probably in the late 1950s or in the beginning of the 1960s, because this story is from a book which was published in 1963, the suede shoes indicate that it was at that period, since they were very popular then. In my view, the main them of the story is life lessons and mentors. The message is treat others the way you want to be treated. In this story Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones is a mentor; she wants to teach and provides advice in a kind manner that he can learn from his mistakes. She takes the role as his mother ‘you aught o be my son.
I will teach you right from wrong’. They had something in common, she understands him and she actually admits to a stranger that she also did things when she was young, and she is not proud of ‘I have done things, too, which I would never tell you, son-neither tell God, if he did not already know’. The main characters, as we see, are Roger and Mrs Luella Bates Washington. On the first paragraph we get to know Roger, he is obviously not a very large or a strong man, nor very skilled in the art of stealing purses. This depicts his size and inexperience as a criminal. He lives along as we know, when he replays Mrs Luella that he gets nobody home. A dirty boy dressed in blue jeans and tennis shoes. An honest person he answers “Yes”, when Mrs Luella asks him if he is going to run, and that he needs money to buy a pair of blue suede shoes. He wants to be trusted, when he sits away from the purse (p. 165 the second paragraph).
Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones, we get closer her in the beginning of the story, especially in the first paragraph, when the author gives a description which makes her seems strong, confident and unafraid of the night, not only a large woman. She lives in a flat with other roomers, but we do not know about her family. She works late in a hotel’s beauty shop. Mrs Luella shows the compassion for the boy, she does not take him to the police, even though he attempts her purse. She is presented as an active and dominant character. The story is told by the third person, a person who observes and describes all things happen in the story. We know just what the protagonists say to each other, no one’s thoughts are declared. The author uses non-standard English in the story to get it more living and more reliable.
It is a kind of slang that Americans use especially African American. In my point of view, the climax is in the end of the text, when Mrs Luella Bates gives Roger ten dollars. He simply shocks and gets other thoughts about her. He feels guilty for trying to steal her pocketbook, he apologizes ‘Lady, I am sorry’. She cares and feels sorry about him, although she does not know him. She leads him down the hall and opens the door for him, then she says ’God night, behave yourself, boy.’ In the end, I will simply say that this story is relevant nowadays, because some countries still have this problem. Some people steal to satisfy their needs only. So therefore this story is a good example to these people. It teaches how they can fulfil their wishes without stealing.
Courtney from Study Moose
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