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Published: 16-12-2019

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An Act of Kindness in Langston Hughes’ Short Story, Thank You Ma'Am

Storyteller Aesop once quipped, “Any act of kindness, no matter how modest, is by no means wasted.” This truth is illuminated in Langston Hughes’ quick story, “Thank You Ma’am,” when a lady assists a boy from the wrong side of the tracks get back on the proper path, even even though he has wronged her. The woman’s merciful yet firm stance enlightens the mischievous boy about the error of his approaches. Ultimately, a little generosity and kindness will go a lengthy way.

As the story starts to take shape, Roger is a misguided young man, as but untouched by the woman’s kindness. He fails in his try to steal a purse from Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, and is currently paying the value. Says the author, “The big woman simply turned around and kicked him proper square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled” (Hughes 1). Evidently, Mrs. Jones is taking matters into her own hands to discipline the wayward boy, rather than leaving it up to the police. She punishes him for his wrongdoing with the sole intent of discouraging him from making similar errors in the future.

In this way, it is her concern for his welfare and future that tends to make her take such stern action. An additional instance of Mrs. Jones compassionate, nearly maternal, attitude towards Roger plays out when she confronts him verbally. She remarks, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you correct from wrong. Least I can do appropriate now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?” (Hughes two). Whereas most men and women would resent their attackers, Mrs. Jones wanted to care for Roger and even take him beneath her wing. It is a telling reality certainly that her priority was to tend to the boy, not report him to the authorities. Conclusively, Mrs. Jones exhibited tremendous generosity toward Roger, and it has made all the difference.

Later, Mrs. Jones continues her motherly part towards Roger, even softening up a bit. She “did not ask the boy something about where he lived, or his folks, or anything else that would embarrass him. Rather, as they ate, she told him about her job” (Hughes 4). Noticeably, Mrs. Jones was considerate of the boy by speaking to him in a friendly manner, discussing a carefree topic with him to ease his mind and establish a caring partnership with him, as although he have been her son. In another instance of her hospitality towards Roger, she says, “Now right here, take this ten dollars and acquire your self some blue suede shoes… The boy wanted to say some thing other than ‘Thank you, ma’am’…but although his lips moved, he couldn’t” (Hughes four). Astoundingly, Mrs. Jones gave the boy the money he had attempted to steal from her in the 1st place—along with a worthwhile lesson. As for Roger, he was clearly moved by her charity and dumbstruck to see that any individual could be so forgiving he had naturally learned his lesson. All in all, Mrs. Jones showed great mercy towards Roger and was rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing that she had positively impacted his life.

As Aesop brilliantly remarked, “Any act of kindness, no matter how little, is in no way wasted.” Langston Hughes shines the light on this reality in his quick story, “Thank You Ma’am.” Roger is surprised to acquire compassion and mercy from a woman he had wronged. He comes to see the error in his approaches thanks to Mrs. Jones’ profoundly caring nature towards him. Conclusively, even a tiny kindness and hospitality can change a person’s life.
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