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

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

Keywords: Langston Hughes,Woman,act of kindness

Storyteller Aesop once quipped, “Any act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted.” This truth is illuminated in Langston Hughes’ short story, “Thank You Ma’am,” when a woman helps a boy from the wrong side of the tracks get back on the right path, even though he has wronged her. The woman’s merciful yet firm stance enlightens the mischievous boy about the error of his ways. Ultimately, a little generosity and kindness will go a long way.

As the story begins to take shape, Roger is a misguided young man, as yet untouched by the woman’s kindness. He fails in his attempt to steal a purse from Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, and is already paying the price. Says the author, “The large woman simply turned around and kicked him right 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”. 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 mistakes in the future.

In this way, it is her concern for his welfare and future that makes her take such stern action. Another 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 right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?”. Whereas most people would resent their attackers, Mrs. Jones wanted to care for Roger and even take him under her wing. It is a telling fact indeed 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 role towards Roger, even softening up a bit. She “did not ask the boy anything about where he lived, or his folks, or anything else that would embarrass him. Instead, as they ate, she told him about her job”. 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 relationship with him, as though he were her son. In another example of her hospitality towards Roger, she says, “Now here, take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes… The boy wanted to say something other than ‘Thank you, ma’am’…but although his lips moved, he couldn’t”. Astoundingly, Mrs. Jones gave the boy the money he had tried to steal from her in the first place — along with a valuable lesson. As for Roger, he was clearly moved by her charity and dumbstruck to see that anyone could be so forgiving; he had obviously 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 small, is never wasted.” Langston Hughes shines the light on this reality in his short story, “Thank You Ma’am.” Roger is surprised to receive compassion and mercy from a woman he had wronged. He comes to see the error in his ways thanks to Mrs. Jones’ profoundly caring nature towards him. Conclusively, even a little kindness and hospitality can change a person’s life.

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An Act of Kindness in Langston Hughes’ Short Story, Thank You Ma’am. (2021, December 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/an-act-of-kindness-in-langston-hughes-short-story-thank-you-maam/
“An Act of Kindness in Langston Hughes’ Short Story, Thank You Ma’am.” GradesFixer, 06 Dec. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/an-act-of-kindness-in-langston-hughes-short-story-thank-you-maam/
An Act of Kindness in Langston Hughes’ Short Story, Thank You Ma’am. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/an-act-of-kindness-in-langston-hughes-short-story-thank-you-maam/> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2022].
An Act of Kindness in Langston Hughes’ Short Story, Thank You Ma’am [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 06 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/an-act-of-kindness-in-langston-hughes-short-story-thank-you-maam/
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