Thank You Ma’am Analysis
In the American short story “Thank You, M’aam,” Langston Hughes creates a powerful plot emphasizing themes of kindness and forgiveness. Setting the story in the 1950s of America where African Americans still faced prejudice and segregation in society, Hughes captures a snapshot of the life, experience, and culture back then. Employing literary devices, Langston also effectively uses situational irony to create a twist in the reader’s expectations and develop meaning and depth to his African American characters Ms. Luella Bates Washington Jones and young teen Roger.
Thank You Ma’am Summary, Themes
In the beginning of the story, a boy named Roger attempts to steal Ms. Jones’s purse in the middle of the night but fails to run away with it due to its heaviness. Consequently, Ms. Jones angrily lectures him and hauls him away. Instead of bringing him to the police station in which the reader (and Roger) would expect, she drags Roger to her home and ironically gives him food and money. At this point, Roger faces an internal conflict of whether to run or not; however, he “took the 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” (Hughes, 79).
Despite Roger’s act of theft, Ms. Jones ironically feeds him and treats him well as family. The ephemeral external conflict of stealing turns against Roger, and he instead faces a conflict of trust. Author Langston Hughes intentionally creates Roger’s situation of trust to create the turning point of the story, in which the boy’s character changes due to emotions of feeling homely with the woman. Unlike the reader’s expectation for him to flee away, the qualities of being good and obedient add to his characterization, ultimately turning the boy into a dynamic character. He wants Ms. Jones to see him in a new light and to gain her trust with his integrity. Langston Hughes’ use of situational irony greatly influences the power of the story by placing an unpredictable turn in events and further establishing both African American characters’ characterization.
Thank You Ma’am Conclusion
Instead of berating Roger, Ms. Jones offers him dinner, where they sit together and eat, and she later on gives him $10. Ms. Jones’s actions exemplify her guidance like a parent-like figure. By gifting Roger $10 and not placing any limitations on what he should buy with it, Ms. Jones also gives the boy room to make his own decisions and ultimately understand the meaning of responsibility for his own actions. Imparted with trust and the kindness of Ms. Jones, Roger ultimately learns an unforgettable lesson of forgiveness and generosity.
Did you enjoy Thank You Ma’am by Langston Hughes? What are some things that make you Grateful? 😀