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The Story “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes Essay

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Updated: May 5th, 2020

Mrs. Luella Bates Washington reacts in a different way than what Roger expects after he tries to steal her purse. Roger’s attempt to steal money from her is thwarted by his fall. The lady manages to hold Roger by his shirt and pulls him to her house. From then onwards, Roger has to follow everything Mrs. Washington tells him to do.

The story illustrates how children who are deprived in society are tempted to engage in criminal activities just to survive. Roger personifies children lured into crime because of the harsh circumstances they are facing (McMahan et al. 541). Mrs. Washington intends to help the boy realise that there is a better way to get something apart from stealing. She discourages the boy from stealing people’s purses as a way to earn a living.

Mrs. Washington manages to care for the boy even though he has wronged her. She takes him to her house where she makes him wash his face. ”I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?” (McMahan et al. 541). The lady takes time to understand the circumstances that have made the boy engage in petty theft.

As she is holding him tight, she observes his face and body structure. She realizes that the boy needs help because of the hardships he is going through at the moment (McMahan et al. 541). Her demeanor intimidates the boy, who expects a severe punishment from her. However, even though her tone is stern and menacing, she still takes the responsibility of letting the boy wash his face before advising him to stay away from crime.

Mrs. Washington takes responsibility for the boy’s plight and manages to show him, love. She teaches the boy proper social and moral codes, which everyone in the society needs to follow. The boy gets to understand that stealing is not the only way a person can get what he wants. She wants to make a positive impact on the boy and the only way she can do this is by being stern and uncompromising.

“When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington.” (McMahan et al. 541). She makes the boy sit after washing his face before she tells him to have supper with her (McMahan et al. 541). Mrs. Bates’s approach makes the boy attentive and he gets to learn that he needs to make the right choices in life.

Mrs. Bates reveals to Roger that she did wrong things in the past but she managed to turn her life around and become a good person. She makes Roger understand that it is human nature to crave for things that we are not able to get. Roger gets to understand that he needs to be more responsible for his actions. The story teaches us to take time to understand a situation first before making any rash decisions.

Roger personifies deprived children who are tempted to steal to satisfy their basic needs (McMahan et al. 541). Mrs. Bates gives the boy some money to buy suede shoes. The interaction Mrs. Bates has with Roger makes him see things in a new light. He gets a valuable lesson on good behavior, which he will remember for the rest of his life.

Works Cited

McMahan, Elizabeth, Susan X. Day, Robert W. Funk, and Linda S. Coleman. Literature and the Writing Process. 9th ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2010. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 5). The Story "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-thank-you-maam-by-langston-hughes/

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"The Story "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes." IvyPanda, 5 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-thank-you-maam-by-langston-hughes/.

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