Langston Hughes: “Thank You, M’am“˗˗Deconstruction Analysis

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Mar’Quis Mitchell
Dr. Suzanne Bost
English 354: Contemporary Critical Thinking Theory
October 23, 2012
Langston Hughes: “Thank You, M’am“˗˗Deconstruction Analysis
“Thank You, M’am” is a short story about an elderly African American woman named Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, who was walking alone in the dark, when suddenly a young boy, Roger, attempts to seize her purse. After the failed attempt, Mrs. Jackson decides to teach Roger a life lesson. Surprisingly, Mrs. Jackson did not treat Roger as if he did anything wrong; instead she allowed him to wash his face, fed him a nice meal, gave him the money for the shoes he attempted to get through stealing her purse, and sent him on his way. Presumably, the story can be seen as an advocate to the concept that the act of discipline is not only effective in punishment, but also by presenting and teaching kindness and trust. Nonetheless, after a closer reading and observation of specific aspects of the story’s characterization, setting, and conflict; the story can also be interpretation as a tribute to the physical (or dominate), altruistic, and compassionate strength of African American women of the period of racial disparity and paternalism.

There are many characteristic traits in the text that would validate the strength of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. An example mentioned in the text is in the first line of the story that states, “She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails” (). In this example we are giving a physical description that implies how large woman of a woman Mrs. Washington is. Also shown in the example is her dominance and independence as the text states she had a “large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails”. Another thing to pull out from this is that the purse itself was “large”, and if it “held” so many things it had to be very heavy. As Roger jerks at the purse, the strap breaks and “‘Roger’s’ weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance” (). “Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front” (). This again points out her physical strength because she picked up both Roger, who is a “fourteen or fifteen” year old teenage young man, and the heavy purse to which she had already been touting. Another example would be represented in the way that she was “dragging” Roger “behind her” as she guided him to her home. Again, Roger is a full sized boy, It is pretty apparent he wanted and probably still attempted to get away; however, she still had the ability to “drag” him to her home. Thank You, M’am appears to be written in the 1930’s where racism was a predominate issue. The setting is during a period where many African Americans families lived with the bare minimum, if not less. There are many factors within the text that can be seen as validity to Mrs. Jackson’s economic status; her African American Native English, and the descriptions of her possessions. An example pertaining to the word choice or language associated with Mrs. Jacksons character is demonstrated when she states; “You a lie” (), “You could of asked me” (), and “I would not take you nowhere” (). As mentioned in the text, Mrs. Jackson “was sitting on the day-bed” (). In the example, the lack of auxiliary, use of ‘of’ instead of have, and use of double negative would all suffice to the language of the African American, more prevalent in the South, to whom experience the hardships of living in an era of disparity. An example that would also suggest that Mrs. Jackson did not have much would be represented as the text states, “the woman was sitting on her day bed” (). It can be inferred that Mrs. Jackson could not afford an ordinary bed in her household. The fact that Mrs. Jackson decided to provide for Roger despite her economic status and his attempt to steal her purse is a beautiful concept that shows how selfless and altruistic she is.

In spite of the fact that Mrs. Jackson...
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