The boy wanted to say something else other than, "Thank you, ma'am" to Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, but although his lips moved, he couldn't even say that as he turned at the foot of the barren stoop and looked back at the large woman in the door. Then she shut the door.

It is from the story named "Thank you, ma'am" by Langston Hughes.

Can "barren stoop" mean "the edge of the step"? but I did not find the "barren" means as a "step".


Barren's basic meaning is "bare" or "empty". It usually implies "missing obvious things", or "infertile".

A stoop often has children or potted plants on it. In the context of the story, does the author mean to contrast the bare stoop with a typical stoop that has children and/or potted plants? The choice of the word "barren" might be a commentary on the results of this particular interaction between the boy and Mrs. Jones, or on Mrs. Jones' life as a whole.

Langston Hughes was a poet, with a reputation for being a very good author. I expect that the choice of the word "barren" instead of "bare" was not the result of a vocabulary mistake.

  • Thank you so much, but I don't get clearly what you mean by " A stoop often has potted plants or children on it" How children can be potted on a stoop?! – Viser Hashemi May 15 '18 at 11:19
  • 1
    @ViserHashemi -- No, the children are not in pots. They might be sitting down, or talking to each other. – Jasper May 15 '18 at 16:49
  • @ViserHashemi Think Plants vs. Zombies; you will get the idea. – Eddie Kal May 15 '18 at 21:12

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