Toni Cade Bambara wrote the short story, The Lesson, in 1972. The Lesson is considered by the Literary Canon to be a wonderful work of fiction because of its use of language, humanistic theme, symbolism, and non-genre plot. Two essential elements that add to the depth and enhance a reader?s comprehension of The Lesson are Bambara?s use of symbolism and theme.
The Lesson takes place in New York?s inner city. The fictional story begins with a group of poor, uneducated, lower class city kids standing in front of a mailbox, preparing themselves for another day of being taught by Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore felt that it was her duty to help underprivileged children learn because she was one of the only women in the neighborhood to earn a degree. The main character is Sylvia, who tells the story in a first person narrative. Sylvia is a young African American girl, probably around fourteen years old, who is very judgmental about the world around her. By Bambara?s choice of words, the reader can tell that she is extremely opinionated, presents a very tough, hostile exterior and not at all happy about having to be taught anything by Mrs. Moore. For instance, she states ?we kinda hated her too, hated the way we did the winos who cluttered up our parks and pissed on our hand ball walls? (Bambara 121). On this hot summer day, Mrs. Moore felt that there was a lesson to learn at FAO Schwartz, a very expensive, upper class toy store in downtown Manhattan. After stepping out of the cab and peering into the window, Sylvia knows that this is not just any toy store and they are not just there for any reason.
The reason Mrs. Moore brought the children to FAO Schwartz is captured...
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...e born on the social ladder is not a choice and might not be considered to be fair. Although it is easy to take from those beneath you, to move up, one must take a much longer, more difficult approach. Bambara incorporates the theme of The Lesson into the story with very precise wisdom.
The Lesson is a brilliant piece of fiction. The theme and symbolic elements will hopefully help this short story, stand the test of time. Bambara was able to express and show different views on life by bringing a few poor city kids into a ritzy toy store. This is a short story that should be read by all in hopes to educate today?s children.
Bambara, Toni. ?The Lesson?. Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience. Shorter 7th ed. Ed. Richard Abacian and Marvin Koltz. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2000. 121-126.
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