The Lesson, by Toni Cade Bambara, portrays a group of children living in the slums of New York City around 1972. They seem to be content living in poverty in some very unsanitary conditions. One character, Miss Moore, the children’s self appointed mentor, takes it upon herself to further their education during the summer months. She feels this is her civic duty because she is educated. She used F.A.O. Schwarz, a very expensive toystore, to teach them a lesson and inspire them to strive for success and attempt to better themselves and their situations.
At the beginning of the story, the author gives us the feeling that a child is narrating this story. She also shows that the child, Sylvia, is at that age where she feels that adults are silly and she knows everything. “Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right, this lady moved on our block with nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup.” (Bambara 470) Sylvia also tells us about her environment while referencing Miss Moore. “And we kidna hated her too, hated the way we did the winos who cluttered up our parks and pissed on our handball walls and stank up our hallways and stairs so you couldn’t halfway play hide-and-seek without a damn gas mask. Miss Moore was her name. The only woman on the block without a first name.” (Bambara 470) This is our introduction to Miss Moore. She is an educated, well groomed person and the children resent her because she is different and their parents force them to spend time with her in the interest of education.
On the day the story takes place, Miss Moore has rounded up the neighborhood kids and is going to bring them to F.A...
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...t. “We all start reciting the pricetag like we’re in assembly. “Handcrafted sailboat made of fiberglass at one thousand one hundred ninety-five dollars.”
“Unbelieveable, “ I hear myself say and am really stunned.” (Bambara 472) The prices of the previous two items stunned the children, but the sailboat really brought home the idea.
At the end of the story is when Miss Moore’s motive was revealed. She did not want to bring the kids on a field trip. She was interested in giving them a drive to succeed by showing them that some people are very successful and can afford such things. She hopes that they will want to be one of those people instead of a person that, like so many others, are just content with what they have.
Roberts, Edgar V., Jacobs, Henry E. “Literature.” The Lesson. 470-475. Toni Cade Bambara. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 2001
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