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Knowledge and Poverty in The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara Essay example

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Toni Cade Bambara addresses how knowledge is the means by which one can escape out of poverty in her story The Lesson. In her story she identifies with race, economic inequality, and literary epiphany during the early 1970’s. In this story children of African American progeny come face to face with their own poverty and reality. This realism of society’s social standard was made known to them on a sunny afternoon field trip to a toy store on Fifth Avenue. Through the use of an African American protagonist Miss Moore and antagonist Sylvia who later becomes the sub protagonist and White society the antagonist “the lesson” was ironically taught.
Bambara identifies with race through class and demographics in her story The Lesson. The African American children come to terms with their classed society while visiting a pricey, Manhattan toy store. Sylvia states “Then we checked out that we on Fifth Avenue and everybody dressed up in stockings. One lady in fur coat, hot as it is. White folks crazy” (643). Sylvia discovers that White people don’t dress like African Americans, even if they share the same type of weather condition. She recognizes that they have money and they have a tendency to give you an idea about how wealthy they are. “Must be rich people shop here, say Q.T.”(645). One of the children on the trip was able to identify with the demographic of the area. He acknowledged that people who had status and wealth were the one most likely to buy toys and things that expensive. Bambara give readers an insight about the 1970’s and what life was like for those of status in white society. How Whites could afford costly toys while those of African American society could not. Sylvia also recognized behavior patterns in a White atmos...


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...he refused to let white society stand in her way. Sylvia made up her mind and would strive to get what she wanted.
Throughout The Lesson Toni Cade Bambara illustrated how education is the means by which one can escape out of poverty. This was not done in a classroom structured environment it took place on a sunny afternoon field trip in which the children on the trip was confronted with their own deficiency. There was resistance but as each individual longed for a toy in the store the apparent realism displayed itself. The extremely high price for the toys was an amount that their families could live on for a while. Each child was put in a place where he/ she had to examine themselves, their social conditions and their future. Bambara used race through social status, economic inequality, and literary epiphany to identify the hidden realities in each child life.



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