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In Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “The Lesson,” Sylvia, who narrates the story, is a young girl who is growing up in a poor neighborhood of New York City. She thinks she knows everything and that she is always right. Miss Moore, a well-educated African American, intends to educate the neighborhood children and make them see the realities in America outside of their neighborhood. Therefore, she takes Sylvia and seven other children on a trip into the city to teach them about money.
In her story “The Lesson,” Toni Cade Bambara tells us the importance of education. Miss Moore shows that it is by taking the children on a trip to teach them about money, social injustice and show them that there’s more to the world than just than what they are used too.
In the beginning of the story Sylvia, the protagonist, starts by stating that she and her cousin Sugar are always right and that everybody else was “young and foolish” or “old and stupid” (Bambara 274).
One day a well-educated lady moved to their neighborhood and thought she was responsible for the children’s education. But Sylvia does not care what Miss Moore has to say, she just wants to go have fun rather than become educated: “I’m really hating this happy-head bitch… I’d much rather go to the pool” (Bambara 275). Sylvia thinks she knows everything by always saying things about what Miss Moore has to say, for example when Miss Moore ask them if they know what money is and Sylvia responds “like we a bunch of retards.
” She adapted to her environment and thinks it is normal because her friends live in the same conditions.
However, when she goes to the wealthy part of New York and visit a store with expensive merchandise she starts to think of what Miss Moore said, “Where we are is who we are.” She wonders what kind of work people do that have the money to buy expensive things. And then asks, “how come we ain’t on it?” When the children see a sailboat that cost $1195, Sylvia with anger says, “who’d pay all that when you can buy a sailboat set for a quarter at Pop’s, a tube of glue for a dime and a ball of string for eight cents?” She asks Miss Moore how much a real boat costs and Miss Moore reply “Why don’t you check that out and report back to the group?” Miss Moore wants the kids to see how unjust an economic system that denies resources to African Americans. Sugar then tells Miss Moore that “this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means and equal crack at the dough, don’t it,” meaning that some with that money are able to buy expensive things while others are required to feed a family of six. Miss Moore asks if anybody else learned anything. Sylvia does not comment, but returns home much different from how she was before the trip. In the end she states, “but ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nothing,”she might not know how she is going to succeed, but she will figure that out later on.
Initially the conflict the conflict is between Sylvia (and her friends) and Miss Moore; they resist her educating them because they are kids and it is normal to talk back and wanting to break the rules. This is both internal and external.
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