The Lesson

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In Toni Cade Bambara’s short story, “The Lesson”, Sylvia is a young, rebellious poverty stricken girl whose attitude towards education is negative. Though portrayed as a strong minded figure in the story, Sylvia’s lack of knowledge of social inequality makes her a cynical character that does not conform to the values of life. In the story, she is confronted with a lesson that changes her perception of the disadvantages the poor has in contrast to the rich. Bambara creates a host of characters, all of whom help Sylvia explore and demonstrate the issues that face minorities in the United States. One character in particular, Miss Moore, helps Sylvia and the other children by engaging them in activities that will broaden their minds. Miss Moore, a significant character in the story, is an older educated woman in Sylvia’s neighborhood, who is portrayed by Sylvia as having, “nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup” (648). Miss Moore is set apart from others in her neighborhood because of her appearance and zeal to educate the children beyond the classroom, something that Sylvia despised about her. Miss Moore takes the kids on a trip to F.A.O. Schwarz. Throughout their trip, she is constantly talking to them about money. Bambara writes, "And Miss Moore asking us do we know what money is, like we bunch of retards" (649). Throughout the story, Miss Moore is trying to teach the kids a lesson. The lesson being that if you do not want to succumb to the life of the ghetto, you must educate yourself by understanding your surroundings. The kids become shocked when they see the cost of many of the toys. They do not understand how anyone can spend that much money on a toy. Sylvia’s anger becomes a cover-up for increasing feelings of envy when she realizes that the prices of the toys. “Then Sugar run a finger over the whole boat. And I’m jealous and want to hit her. Maybe not her, but I sure want to punch somebody in the mouth” (652). Bambara is revealing a revelation to...
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