Broadening the horizons of underprivileged children. Thank you Miss Moore.
It takes a caring individual to live amongst the poor and teach their young.
In the story “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara, one character stands
out and becomes the teacher of life’s lessons. Miss Moore is a strong,
educated, African American woman who for her own reasons lives within the
slums and becomes, to an extent, a surrogate mother to children whose parents
seem not to care for. It is evident, within the story, that she takes the
initiative to try to broaden the horizons of five young children by
introducing them to new experiences.
As with any society or group there are conflicts between members and the
same holds true for the five children and Miss Moore. Sylvia, the main
character, sees Miss Moore not as a teacher or mentor but as an unwelcome
chaperone on their trip to FAO Schawarz. She would rather be doing anything
else then taking a trip with Miss. Moore to the toy store. According to the
author, the other children feel the same contempt, however, each of
the children perceive Miss Moore differently. This is evident throughout the
story by the inquisitiveness of Sugar. In taking Sylvia and her friends to the toy store, Miss Moore is trying to introduce the children to a new side of life that maybe they weren’t aware of before. She is trying to show them that there are beautiful things outside of the slums and the ghetto where they occupy their time. In the store, the children are exposed to things that, if the opportunity presented itself, they would probably like to
have. Before even getting to the toy store Miss Moore, in one sentence,
gives a lesson on economics and the diversity of wealth. On page 89 Sylvia
says “. and she’s boring us silly about what things cost and what our parents
make and how much goes for rent and how money ain’t divided up.
The Lesson Toni Cade Bambara
Some experiences change a person and their outlook profoundly. The process of growing up can be gradual but when a transformations occurs abruptly and unexpectantly it can be difficult to handle. Sylvia, the main character in Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson,” learns a lesson about social class and the implications of wealth and in the process loses some of the innocence that characterizes childhood. Sylvia resists this lesson, therefore the changes that take place in her are subtle, yet they are extensive.
Ms. Moore tells the children to go into the store, but she doesn’t lead the way. Here Sylvia becomes uncharacteristicly unsure of herself, “But I feel funny, shame, But what I got to be shamed about? Got as much right to go in as anybody. But somehow I can’t seem to get hold of the door, so I step away for Sugar to lead.” Sylvia seems to be very much the leader until this point and so she is clearly disquieted by the differences she sees between her world and that of Fifth Avenue. Sylvia doesn’t yet understand her discomfort but she will be unable to ignore it. This experience unnerves Sylvia and challenges the perception she has of herself, “And I look at her and she looks at me and this is ridiculous. I mean, damn, I have never been shy about doing nothing or going nowhere.” Sylvia is about to be forced to rethink her perceptions of herself and of her place in society. She is too tough and too smart not to come away from this with a new understanding of the world that exists beyond the slums that have, until now, been her entire world.
As the story begins the reader sees Sylvia avoid thinking about topics that relate to money. In the cab Sylvia is supposed to calculate a tip for the driver, She’d rather formulate a new plan for the money Ms. Moore has given her. When Sylvia is forced to address the tip she decides that the driver doesn’t need the money as badly as she does. Here Sylvia’s thinking is flawed.
The Lesson Toni Cade Bambara. (1969, December 31). In MegaEssays.com. Retrieved 01:50, October 06, 2016, from http://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/29455.html
MegaEssays. “The Lesson Toni Cade Bambara.” MegaEssays.com. MegaEssays.com, (December 31, 1969). Web. 06 Oct. 2016.
MegaEssays, “The Lesson Toni Cade Bambara.,” MegaEssays.com, http://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/29455.html (accessed October 06, 2016)
The Lesson Analysis
(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)
The theme of the story is reinforced by several aspects of style that make it delightful instead of didactic or preachy, despite the fact that its central message calls for a revolution in attitudes and actions by both individuals and social institutions. Because the story focuses on the children, readers see how social and economic disadvantages are perpetuated and have lasting effects on future generations. Most important is the use of Sylvia as the narrator, because of her attitudes and her language. Sylvia has developed a smart-aleck, tough, self-centered stance to survive in the slum area. She is quick to think up or be involved with mischief, such as the time she accepts a dare to run into a Catholic church and do a tap dance at the altar. When she enters the church, however, with “everything so hushed and holy and the candles and the bowin and the handkerchiefs on all the drooping heads,” she cannot go through with the plan. She has a sense of rightness, which she believes she is above or does not need, but her sense of decency and fairness is a major part of her character. Although she initially brags that she is keeping the money from the taxi fare, by the end of the story she is not eager to go with Sugar to spend it. The fact that Miss Moore does not ask Sylvia for the change suggests that Miss Moore trusts that what Sylvia is learning is more important than a few dollars.
The most noticeable and significant aspect of style in “The Lesson” is its use of language. Sylvia’s speech patterns are lively and colorful, such as her comment when Miss Moore suggests she check the cost of a real yacht, that such an assignment “really pains my ass.” Her way of talking is realistic for someone who lives where she does. Her slang and wit show her to be a bright, observant, believable, and interesting character, someone the reader can like and care about. By the end of the story, it is clear that Sylvia is realizing that there is more to the world than her neighborhood, and that she will have to develop new knowledge and new strategies for dealing with that world, including, probably, learning more formal patterns of English used by people outside her immediate environment.
The Lesson Bibliography
(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)
Alwes, Derek. “The Burden of Liberty: Choice in Toni Morrison’s Jazz and Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters .” African American Review 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1996): 353-365.
Bone, Martyn. “Capitalist Abstraction and the Body Politics of Place in Toni Cade Bambara’s Those Bones Are Not My Child .” Journal of American Studies 37, no. 2 (August, 2003): 229-246.
Butler-Evans, Elliott. Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.
Collins, Janelle. “Generating Power: Fission, Fusion, and Post Modern Politics in Bambara’s The Salt Eaters. ” MELUS 21, no. 2 (Summer, 1996): 35-47.
Heller, Janet Ruth. “Toni Cade Bambara’s Use of African American Vernacular English in ’The Lesson.’” Style 37, no. 3 (Fall, 2003): 279-293.
Kelley, Margot A. “’Damballah Is the First Law of Thermodynamics’: Modes of Access to Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters .” African American Review 27, no. 3 (Fall, 1993): 479-493.
Muther, Elizabeth. “Bambara’s Feisty Girls: Resistance Narratives in Gorilla, My Love .” African American Review 36, no. 3 (Fall, 2002): 447-459.
The Lesson Setting
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The Lesson Homework Help Questions
The lesson Miss Moore wants the narrator and the other children to learn is about wealth and poverty and the massive inequalities that exist in society. Taking such children, who live in such.
Sylvia is a tough girl throughout the story. She truly understands the lesson, and this knowledge creates an epiphany in her. She learns the lesson of class inequality and unfairness in spite.
Toni Cade Bambara