Childhood Influences Our Future Decisions, as Seen in “Thank you, Ma’m” by Langston Hughes and “Spilled Salt” by Barbara Neely

Childhood Influences Our Future Decisions, as Seen in “Thank you, Ma’m” by Langston Hughes and “Spilled Salt” by Barbara Neely

Length: 783 words (2.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Certain factors in a person’s childhood can influence the decision that a person makes. These factors are likely very significant and can change the perspectives of different people. Langston Hughes, the writer of Thank You M’am, and Barbara Neely, the writer of Spilled Salt, both use various literary techniques to convey to the theme of childhood having an influence on a person’s behavior and decisions. These techniques allow the authors to present this theme more successfully through the use of sympathy, humor, and character.

One method of presenting a theme is through the use of sympathy. Sympathy can be defined as sharing the feeling of sorrow or a relation of affinity or harmony between people. In both stories, sympathy is used to create pathos in the reader. In the story Thank You, M’am, sympathy is shown towards Rogers from the large, dominant woman, also known as Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. After Roger’s attempted robbery, Mrs. Jones takes a glance at him before saying, "I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain't you got nobody home to tell you to wash you face?” Roger’s response to her question is “No’m”, indicating that he is living without a family and in likely poverty. This allows the audience to recognize the situation the 14 year old was likely placed in and contributes to the idea that childhood influences a person’s decisions. In comparison, in Spilled Salt, the sympathy is more directed to Myrna. This is accomplished when the author indicates that “She couldn't even think it, let alone say it. Assault, attack, molest, anything but rape. Anyone but her son, her bright and funny boy, her high school graduate". Clearly, because Myrna cannot believe the horrible act her son has committed, the aut...


... middle of paper ...


...not want to speak to her son much because she’s scared to hear the answers he will give. “I can’t go through this again; she mouthed soundlessly to the breeze”. This shows that Myrna is not as confident as Mrs. Luella. Because one character is more confident than the other, the message is more effectively brought out.

In conclusion, in both “Thank you, Ma’m” by Langston Hughes and “Spilled Salt” by Barbara Neely, there are certain factors in a person’s childhood that can influence the decision that people make. These factors are likely very significant and can change the perspectives of different people. Through the use of different literary techniques, the authors can successfully present their theme through the use of sympathy, humor and character. Overall Mr. Hughes has done a better job in conveying the theme due to his effective use literary techniques.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »