Social relations are often premised on interaction that often has negative outcomes, or even leading to different types of conflicts. Social conflicts and problems are often exposed in literature to undermine the importance of favoring a positive social environment and encouraging effective decision-making. The two short stories – Little Things are Big by Jesus Colon and Thank You M’am by Langston Hughes – represent social challenges that the heroes should overcome to understand the problem and define how it can be solved. In this respect, both works represents three types of confrontation – individual, relational, and societal. In the narrations under the analysis, there is an explicit confrontation of the heroes with their selves. Hence, the first story by Hughes narrates the story where the boy Rogers fights with his desire to steal the purse because he wants to buy the blue suede shoes. At the same time, he realizes that stealing is not the only way to get what he wants.
While fighting between the two edges, the character realizes that his behavior is disruptive and will not help him achieve his goals. Similar fight occurs to the hero of Colon’s story. He is a Puerto Rican and tries to fit the existing stereotypes of the ethnical group. At the same time, his is also obsessed with the existence of racial differences with people, which limits his outlook on social interaction with people. Being focused on his racial affiliation, the hero expresses his extreme hesitations whether he should help a woman or not.
By convincing himself about prejudicial attitudes of the woman, he fails to assist woman. Both stories also represent interpersonal conflicts revealing the relationship and interaction between people with different social and cultural backgrounds. Hence, the boy apparently has no one to look after him, which results in an inappropriate social behavior. Lack of communication and proper upbringing lead him to outlaw actions against society. The woman tries to teach him how to behave in society and, as a result, she distributes roles by considering a boy her son and herself his mother: “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong” (Hughes 71). In such a way, she tries to meet the existing social norms.
Roles distribution is also presented in the Colon’s stories when the main hero starts defining the social status by the color of skin: “How could I, a black and a Puerto Rican, approach this lady?” (Colon 116). Looking from these perspectives, both heroes were fully aware of the social constrains, but lacked sufficient understanding of social norms. Lack of social awareness and cross-cultural understanding is revealed through the conflict between the self and society, as represented in both short stories. Hence, the main hero of Hughes’s story is placed within the social setting where the main hero is deprived of care and responsibilities. He does not understand his faults and believes that his behavior is the only way to achieve his purposes. At the same time, Mrs.
Jones attempts to fulfill the role of mother because she lives in a socially isolated setting. Similarly, Colon’s hero follows the social stereotypes, which prevents him from fulfilling social obligations. In conclusion, both works by Colon and by Hughes represent how social vices affect human relationships. Lack of social awareness and impossibility to conform to societal norms prevents the characters from making decisions.
At the same time, the short stories provide a moral lesson for people and teach them to behave in accordance with the ethical and moral codes.
Colon, Jesus. ‘Little Things Are Big’ A Puerto Rican In New York and Other Sketches. US: International Publishers, 1982.
Print. 116-117. Hughes, Langston, ‘Thank You M’am’ The Best Short Stories by Black Writers: The Classic Anthology from 1899 to 1967. US: Little, Brown, 1967. Print.