Thank You, M'am


She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but a hammer and nails. It had a long strap, and she carried it slung across her shoulder. It was about eleven o’clock at night, dark, and she was walking alone, when a boy ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. The strap broke with the sudden single tug the boy gave it from behind. But the boy’s weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance. Instead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk and his legs flew up. 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.

After that the woman said, “Pick up my pocketbook, boy, and give it here.”

She still held him tightly. But she .bent down enough to permit him to stoop and pick up her purse. Then she said, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?”

Firmly gripped by his shirt front, the boy said, “Yes’m.”

The woman said, “What did you want to do it for?”

The boy said, “I didn’t aim to.” She said, “You a lie!”

By that time two or three people passed, stopped, turned to look, and some stood watching.

“If I turn you loose, will you run?” asked the woman.

“Yes’m,” said the boy.”

“Then I won’t turn you loose,” said the woman. She did not release him.

“Lady, I’m sorry,” whispered the boy.

“Um-hum! Your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?”

“No’m,” said the boy.”

“Then it will get washed this evening,” said the large woman, starting up the street, dragging the frightened boy behind her.

-Langston Hughes, “Thank You, M’am,” Short Stories.

  1. Which of the following best describes the woman in this excerpt?
    • mean
    • fearful
    • caring
    • careful
    • dishonest
  2. Based on the excerpt, which of the following is the woman most likely to do to the boy?
    • take him to her house and feed him
    • escort him home and speak to his parents
    • turn him over to the police
    • offer to give him money and send him away
    • give him a warning and let him go
  3. Based on its title “Thank You, M’am” and the way the woman treats the boy in the excerpt, what is the most likely resolution for this story?
    • The boy later steals from the woman and ends up in jail.
    • The woman realizes she made a mistake in being nice to the boy.
    • The boy tries to be nice and helps the woman with her housework.
    • The woman hires the boy to help her in her store.
    • The woman helps the boy make something of himself.