Deconstruction of Thank You, Ma’am

Deconstruction of Thank You, Ma’am

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Deconstruction of Thank You, Ma’am


There are a million acts of kindness each day.  Some young man gives a stranger a compliment, or a teacher brightens a students morning.  But, in the world we live in today, these acts are rare to come by.  In this short story Thank You, Ma’am, the boy, out of mysterious luck, gets taken in by the woman whom he was trying to steal a purse from.  Her actions, following the incident towards the boy, may have seemed very kind and understanding, but the boy needs a more solid way of punishment.  He requires discipline that will show him that as complicated as life is, there will not always be someone for you to lean and depend on.
    The first and most foremost thing that would come to mind when reading this story is how caring Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones was, that she took in the boy and nurtured him; she tried to teach him between right and wrong.  She gave him food, a nice conversation, and even a chance of escape, which he chose not to take, but these methods are still an immoral way of handling the situation.  If a boy were to come up to an everyday woman on the streets, that victim would not be as sensitive as Mrs. Jones was to the boy she caught.  To teach a young man that if you steal and you are going to get special treatment is not an effective method of punishment.
    First of all, the boy told Mrs. Jones that he tried to steal her purse for one reason, to buy blue suede shoes for himself.  She then replies, “Well you didn’t have to snatch my pocketbook to get some blue suede shoes... You could have just asked me.”  There are many faulty choices of judgments made in this comment, mainly because the outcome of the situation would almost never happen in the real world.  The boy will now, after being told he should just ask for the shoes, believe that anything he ever wants will come to his possession if would just ask.  To “trick” a child into being convinced that if you just ask a woman for money or anything that she will give it to you is morally wrong, and it is not fair for the boy to go through life having and accepting this state of mind.

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    Secondly, Mrs. Jones allows the boy into her house and from there a train of events happened that augmented the boys judgment more.  She told him that, “...I were young once and I wanted things I could not get... You thought I was going to say, ‘but I didn’t snatch people’s pocketbooks.’ Well I wasn’t going to say that.” In stating this Mrs. Jones herself has shown weakness in her lifestyle.  The boy may now believe that since she had been not as perfect as a child, he might turn out fine just as Mrs. Jones had.  She has now opened a door for the boy, in showing him through another statement that intended that it was still wrong to make an attempt to steal someone’s pocketbook, but you could still get away with the crime.

    From the events in the story, the most obvious and penetrating theme would be that Mrs. Jones taught the boy a valuable lesson by taking him in and pampering him.  But, by using the methods of deconstruction and digging deeply into the true theme of the short story, you will find a recessive theme, secondary to the obvious.  In “Thank You, Ma’am,” the apparent theme is not as it seems, and the true meaning is shown, that as complicated as life is, there is not always someone for one to depend on.  Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones may have seemed like a strong role model for the boy, but truly set a poor example for the boy by convincing him, not knowingly, but in her sub-conscious, that it is admirable to steal and beg for things that you do not have and want.  A very important lesson could be taught within either theme, and in the end it is a fight between two old enemies, good and evil.

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