In “The Allegory of the Cave,” Plato describes the cave as very dark with chained people inside and a wall where they can only see shadow illusions, which they believe is reality. Outside the cave, there is “light” and “truth.” One chained person is released into the “light,” which is uncomfortable at first, because of how bright the “light” or “truth” is however, once he adjusts, he realizes the outer world is the “truth” or reality and the cave is a shadow of reality. He pities the ones in the cave, still lost in the darkness yet, when he tries to make them see reality, their ignorance overpowers them and they kill the enlightened one out of fear and confusion. This is the kind of society, full of puppet-handlers, the narrator Sylvia in “The Lesson” dwells in and the author, Toni Cade Bambara, depicts Sylvia as being freed from the chains of ignorant society. Bambara’s released prisoner, Miss Moore, is the one to free Sylvia and the other chained prisoners and exposes them to the “light,” which is the unequal distribution of wealth and the “truth,” which is educating youth on economic inequality so the freed prisoners can learn to change their society’s shadow of reality.
The narrator Sylvia and the children in her impoverished neighborhood are prisoners in a dark cave, which is the society that encompasses ignorance and puppet-handlers. “The Lesson” begins with Sylvia as she talks condescendingly about her neighborhood of Harlem, New York: “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. Quite naturally we laughed at her… And we kinda ha...
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...lieved in their shadow of reality. However, once released prisoner Miss Moore arrives into Sylvia’s neighborhood, everything changes. Coupled with Miss Moore’s education and power is the “light” and “truth” Bambara wants to display. Miss Moore articulates the “light” to all the chained prisoners, but like in “The Allegory of the Cave,” many are afraid and bewildered by the “light,” so they reject being enlightened. However the “light” reaches Sylvia, which causes a soul-shattering experience, but ultimately releases her from her chains. Once freed from the dark cave and its wall of illusions, Sylvia is able to communicate the “light” to the other chained prisoners in her society as well. This allows her to express Bambara’s “truth,” which is educating youth on the unequal distribution of wealth, so they can learn to change their society’s shadow of truth.
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