After reading Toni Cade Bambara's, The Lesson, the reader is left with a sense of hope for the first person narrator Sylvia and her friends. Following her and her friends from the slums of New York, to a Fifth Avenue F.A.O. Swartz, one gets an idea as to the kind of environment they came from, the type of education they received, and the sense of economic imbalance they bear witness to. Through this the antagonist, Miss Moore, is able to let the children evaluate for themselves the difference between the Fifth Avenue world and the one they are from, at an age where the impression made upon them might generate a spark of desire to find out how they might achieve the same rewards Fifth Avenue has to offer.
The story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, first person narrator, Sylvia. Sylvia is a preteen African American girl, strong willed, intelligent, and the obvious leader of the pack. The story's plot involves a college educated black woman who comes back to an economically disadvantaged neighborhood on weekends and takes the local children on field trips of a sort. On this particular trip she lets the children experience their first ride in a taxicab to a toy store in Manhattan. It is played out through a chronological series of events from the time they leave their neighborhood, until the time they arrive back there.
The exposition introduces the reader to, Sylvia, Miss Moore, Sylvia's friends, and the neighborhood. Sylvia's friends consist of a number of round characters, such as Junebug, Mercedes, Fat Butt, and Rosie Giraffe, as well as the stock characters Sugar, Q.T. and Junior. The setting is what seems to be a 1960' circa slum.
As the story develops the reader gets a glimpse of Sylvia's “street smar...
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...lack of proper education in the poorer areas of the country, the need for parents to stand up and take responsibility for their children, and the inequality, and huge gap that exists between the rich and the poor in the United States today.
The use of Sylvia as the protagonist gave the story a real quality to it. The world as seen through the eyes of a pre-teen, streetsmart kid, and the realization that there was still a lot to learn in an unfair world. Every character was well defined, and seemed to have a life of their own. It was a very easy to comprehend story which I believe should be a staple, if not requirement, in every urban public school
Bambara, Toni Cade. “The Lesson.” Literature and society: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. Pamela J Annas and Robert C. Rosen. 4th Edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J 2007. P. 647-653