The Reality in “Thank You, Ma’m”

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Is the literature separated from the reality? Most literatures reflect the reality of the times when they were written in. Even though “Thank You, Ma’m” (1959) by Langston Hughes is a short story, it also reflects the reality of the times. I think the writer offered some comments for two purposes on the society through the relationship between Mrs. Jones and Roger at that time: to enlighten poor black men. to criticize the radicalism. Hughes tried to enlighten the poor black men likewise Mrs. Jones would teach Roger “right from wrong” in this novel. When this novel was written in 1959, the problems of the poor black men were very serious in a racial society. Although they are eager to have the American Dream, it was frustrated by racial discrimination. As the result, the poverty was inherited to next generation repeatedly. Roger represents the group of the poor black men. His face was “dirty” and he was “frail and willow-wild” in his clothes. In addition, he tried to steal money from Mrs. Jones illegally. About these problems, the writer tried to enlighten the poor black men through Mrs. Jones’ words although it is faint and indirect. Enlightening poor black men is expressed by Mrs. Jones making Roger “wash his face with warm water.” Chances were Hughes wanted to correct the poor black men’s faults stained by illegality and poverty. It might be one of the methods to improve the social problems as a literary man. I believe that Hughes tried to support the doctrine of nonviolence which Martin Luther King led. In case of this viewpoint, Roger represents radicalist which Malcolm X led. Likewise the radicalist attempted to acquire the franchise using riots and violence, Roger tried to “snatch Mrs. Jones’ pocketbook” illegally owing to “blue suede shoes.” I think this “blue suede shoes” implies the franchise that the black men were eager to acquire at that

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