Thank You Ma’am by Langston Hughes portrays the moral and spiritual connotations between Mrs.Luella Bates Washington Jones, a middle class hairstylist, and a misguided youth named Roger.Written and published in 1958, Thank You Ma’am illustrates a social commentary heavily influenced by the time period. Hughes portrayal of 1950s Northern America provides a clear line of the true poverty and neglected citizens who endured circumstances they were forced to call home.The primary conjunction of the two characters occurs when the young boy Roger attempts to burglarize Mrs. Jones by stealing her purse. Roger is quickly apprehended by Mrs.Jones and forced into a corner by which he cannot escape. However instead of having the disgruntled youth arrested, she invites Roger into her home where he is treated with a kindness not very akin to his social status.This moment of pure-heartedness is where the incarnations of Mrs. Jones and Roger lie within the story.
Thank you Ma’am divulges into the inert sense of pureness within humanity. Throughout the excerpt we are presented with two sides of a common basis of ideology: ignorance and wisdom. Mrs.Jones embodies wisdom as a matrilineal figure to the ignorance that is Roger. However this is not an arrogant wisdom or even a wisdom of higher power; the wisdom Mrs. Jones encompasses is one of understanding and equal footing. She even goes out of her way as to not ask about his personal life for she knows the misfortune the child must have endured. Mrs. Jones clearly states that she too has been a victim of ignorance stating, “I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know.” She does not scold ignorance because ignorance is not dull-witted. Mrs.Jones understands that Rogers actions are in direct causation of the society that has treated him so. Roger, under the mindset that he must steal to aquire his goals in life, reflects a rough interior to the city that is implied throughout the story. Roger is in constant suspicion of Mrs. Jones actions to the point where he is almost frightened by the fact that someone could even give him the kindness she has bestowed upon him stating, “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.”Contrary to how the scene may look, what is depicted throughout the encounter is a learning experience more than a reward. Mrs. Jones simply wishes to show a young troubled soul a different world than what he has known; away from the cruelty and abandonment that the world has wrought him. She shows him a more peaceful world, and with the knowledge she shares to Roger we can clearly see a mission statement for the wise to bring knowledge to the ignorance of the world despite circumstance.
Following the themes of ignorance vs true wisdom,the excerpt also invites humanitarian exploration of pure kindness within the human heart.Not only does Mrs. Jones introduce Roger to a better life but she gives him a sense of self worth that he has never felt before. A power within himself to do something better with his life so he may also bring others the kindness that Mrs. Jones has given him. For once in his life he is held in a positive light. The way Mrs. Jones cleans the dirt and grime of the world away while also feeding him not only with nourishment, but the knowledge to overcome prior obstacles. Roger was given the opportunity to think of his actions, much like we must think of the future and decisions that lie ahead, and if we are sharing true kindness.
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