Essay on Rich versus Poor in The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara

Essay on Rich versus Poor in The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara

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In Toni Cade Bambara's, "The Lesson", the story seems kind of linear when you start reading it. At first, it is just about a girl named Sylvia and her childish, rebellious nature toward Miss Moore. But you later discover that there is much more to this story than you initially expected. The seemingly insignificant quarrels that Sylvia has with Miss Moore have a deeper meaning to it. The resolution of the conflict between Sylvia and Miss Moore shows the struggle Sylvia has regarding whether she should not learn things because it appears like a weakness to her or to learn and accept what Miss Moore is trying to teach her.

The conflict between Sylvia and Miss Moore is because of Sylvia's understanding of the division between the rich and the poor. Sylvia lives in a very poor neighborhood so it is assumed that she and her friend get around by stealing things. This is shown when Sugar asks, "Can we steal?" in a serious tone like she's getting the ground rules squared away before she plays. (Bambara, 458) Another example is when Miss Moore tells Sylvia to calculate ten percent of five dollars to tip the cab driver. Sylvia replies, "And I'm stalling to figure out the tip and Sugar say give him a dime. And I decide he don't need it as bad as I do, so later for him." (Bambara, 458) This shows Sylvia's selfish nature, which stems from the ghetto she grew up in.

Miss Moore tries to show Sylvia and her friends the division between their poor society and the neighborhood of the people who are in a higher society. She says, "Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of sex or seven." (Bambara, 461) Sylvia begins to understand and wonder about the division be...


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... truth is related to the semiotic mediation of Black existential modalities. Of primary importance are the construction and representation of an organic Black community and the articulation of Black Nationalist ideology. (Butler-Evans 92)

I agree with this because this story is based on poverty that some Black people had to live in. Miss Moore tells the truth to the kids about the dispute between the rich and the poor, which is the main lesson of the day.


Works Cited

Bambara, Toni, Cade. The Lesson. New York: The Continuum Publishing Corporation, 1972.

Butler-Evans,Elliott. Race,Gender,and Desire:Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara,Toni Morrison,and Alice Walker. Philadelphia:Temple UP,1989.

Cartwright, Jerome. “Bambara’s ‘The Lesson.’ The Explicator 47.3 (Spring 1989): 61-64. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Nov. 2014.

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