The story "Thank You Ma'm" by Langston Hughes is the tale of an unusual encounter between an older woman and a young boy. After spending a few hours in her company, his outlook in life changes completely. This woman is the impressive Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. She is a larger than life personality who chooses to show kindness to a boy who tries to mug her. As the story progresses, the author uses direct and indirect characterization to reveal Mrs. Jones toughness, immense generosity, as well as the self assuredness in her actions.
The author demonstrates Mrs. Jones toughness not only through her physical strengths, but also through her mental sternness. The story opens with the description "she was a large women" that with the fact she was walking alone at night tell the reader she is both physically and mentally capable of taking care of herself. Furthermore, when she is mugged, instead of screaming for help like most people would, she reaches down and kicks her mugger in the butt and picks him up and shakes him until his teeth rattle. Her attitude demonstrates her fearlessness even when the situation is frightening. Her strength is also demonstrated when the boy tries to run away. She holds him in a "half nelson" and "drags" him behind her when she decides to take him to her apartment. Therefore, the reader realizes that Mrs. Jones stature and strength allow her to get her way. .
Another character trait revealed as the story progresses is Mrs. Jones immense generosity. In her first act of kindness she takes Roger to her apartment to feed him because she believes that he attempted to steal her bag because he was hungry. She tells him, "I believe you're hungry or been hungry to try to snatch my pocketbook." This act highlights deeply compassionate nature as she decides to feed a boy who attempted to steal from her. Once they are in her apartment she generously shares her simple meal with him, offering him a fair share of her food.