Mrs Luella Bates Washington Jones Essay

Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones from Thank you M'am by Langston Hughes does not believe that there is any excuse for bad behavior. Her speech when she tells Roger that "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get" reveals a wistfulness in its tone and a recollection of a time in her life when she could not have the things she wanted most. It is apparent that she was young at the time and also did some things of which she is not proud. She has no intention of giving Roger the details but she wants him to know that it is not unusual to want something so badly as to do something you may regret later. However, there is a limit and Roger needs to know that but Mrs. Jones will not judge him. She will only try to make a difference in his life, no matter how small her contribution, whether morally, socially or of monetary value.

In fact, the $10 she gives him is a significant donation especially considering her own circumstances which are apparently modest. She is willing to share whatever she has with him, even if it is not a lot. The reader is aware that she can relate to Roger and probably recognizes similarities with her own childhood and upbringing; things she would change if Roger were her own son and thus revealing her reasons for giving Roger a second chance.  

Both Mrs. Jones and Roger are denizens of Harlem and, as such, have shared some of the same experiences. However, Mrs. Jones is an adult who has profited from her experiences and is now wiser than the young Roger.

After she resists his attempts to steal her purse and captures him, Mrs. Jones tells Roger to pick up her purse, then asks him, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?" He replies that he is, although...

Both Mrs. Jones and Roger are denizens of Harlem and, as such, have shared some of the same experiences. However, Mrs. Jones is an adult who has profited from her experiences and is now wiser than the young Roger.

After she resists his attempts to steal her purse and captures him, Mrs. Jones tells Roger to pick up her purse, then asks him, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?" He replies that he is, although it may be out of fear that he answers. Nevertheless, from his next responses to Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones it becomes apparent that Roger learns to respect this woman. Then, after she takes him home and feeds him, Roger certainly acquires gratitude for her kindness to him.

Here, then, are some comparisons and contrasts between the two characters:

--Comparisons

  • Both are from the inner city and have not lived a comfortable, stable life.
  • Both have done things that are illegal.

“I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know," Mrs. Jones reveals to Roger.

  • Both have learned respect for others. Mrs. Jones tells Roger, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong."
    Only later on does Roger speak very respectfully, and he makes sure that she knows he is not looking at her purse nor is he near it.
  • Both demonstrate concern for the welfare of others. Mrs. Jones takes Roger home; Roger tries to be helpful.

--Contrasts

  • Mrs. Jones is a trustworthy, hard-working, and compassionate woman. However, Roger has no consideration for her when he tries to steal her purse; instead, he merely pursues his selfish desire for a pair of shoes. Whereas Mrs. Jones no longer believes in breaking the law, Roger defies it.
  • Early in the narrative, Mrs. Jones treats Roger kindly, offering to take him home and wash his face [which implies more than is said]. On the other hand, Roger selfishly preys on her, and after he is stopped, he simply wants to get away.
  • Mrs. Jones displays a respect for Roger as a person early on; later, she offers to feed him and directs him to wash his face and clean up before eating while he is in her rooms. Roger's respect is merely given out of fear at first. But, after learning to respect Mrs. Jones, he is concerned about her, offering to run errands:

“Do you need somebody to go to the store,” asked the boy, “maybe to get some milk or something?"

Also, Roger even thanks her as he departs.

  • Roger only learns from his experience with Mrs. Jones to respect people; Mrs. Jones already displays sympathy for others.
  • Where she lives, Mrs. Jones has people with whom she can interact. Alone at home at night, Roger is deprived of parental attention and guidance.

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