16 April 2019
Literary Analysis of “The Lesson”
The issue of inequality for minorities has been of most vital importance in politics, history, and literature as well. In "The Lesson," written by Toni Cade Bambara, the concept of polarity among races is developed throughout the story using several symbols and themes. Examples include the paperweight, which represents all the things in life that are weighing the children down. There is also the use of the sailboat, which represents the journey that lies ahead of Sylvia and the other children. Not to mention the use of the character Miss Moore's name, which represents freedom and her wanting more for the children. These three things all add up to the overall theme of the story — not only recognizing their stance in society but taking that knowledge and doing something about it.
Bambara's "The Lesson" establishes two main characters: Miss Moore and Sylvia. Miss Moore, who serves as a mentor, decides to make it her life's mission to broaden the horizons of the impoverished children within the slums of New York City — determined to inspire them to succeed in life and to better their situations. The prideful and stubborn Sylvia is loathing to recognize the point Miss Moore is trying to make. Perhaps it is because she sees Miss Moore as condescending or believes she is not capable of making the changes Miss Moore wants her to make.
Whatever the reason may be, Sylvia is not particularly thrilled when Miss Moore takes her and her group of friends to an F.A.O toy store on the other side of town. In taking them to the F.A.O Schwartz toy store, Sylvia and the other children become baffled as to why the toys are so costly with one even remarking that one toy in the store could feed all six of them for a whole year. Seeing this stark contrast forces the children to come to terms with social, economic inequality due to racial and class prejudices.
Sylvia is described as streetwise, sassy, witty, and is more sensitive than she initially appears to be. She is the tough girl throughout the story, initially being reluctant to acknowledge that she is a consequence of poverty. Not to say that she is oblivious of the gap between the rich and the poor; however, it is perhaps fair to say that she is, in fact, aware of the economic inequality between the low and high class that is embedded in society subconsciously. In reading the lines -"But I feel funny, shame. But what I got to be shamed about? Got as much right to go in as anybody" (Bambara 604)— it offers insight as to why she is so stubborn to accept her social standing in society.
However, she finally comes to terms with this harsh reality when she observes firsthand the apparent gap between the rich and the poor at the F.A.O Schwartz store in Manhattan. Initially enraged with fury at this discovery, she ultimately recognizes the unfairness of the economy between her and the other children compared...