The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara: Analysis
The lesson by Toni Cade Bambara is a narrative about children who, with the help of their teacher, learn a lesson about the social problems of society. The reader can see that children live in a bubble, not comprehending the daily challenges they and their parents must endure. Nevertheless, even after the trip to the expensive toy store, the children have different responses to such experiences.
Sylvia, the narrative’s main character and narrator, is a young Black girl. She is a defiant youngster who takes pleasure in her individuality. Sylvia also struggles with rage, and it is first aimed at the teacher, Miss Moore. However, as the story continues, she starts to better comprehend the teacher’s lessons on economic injustice and discrimination. The girl recognizes that specific individuals are prosperous while others, such as her own relatives, struggle. The last phrase of Sylvia can be quite meaningful: “But ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin” (Bambara 96). It could mean that after the trip to the toy store, Sylvia will fight for her comfort and well-being in the future. Thus, the excursion was mind-changing, and Sylvia started to divert her rage away from Miss Moore and against the affluent toy store consumers.
Sugar is Sylvia’s companion and almost the complete opposite of her friend in the end. She and Sylvia appear to share the same interests and opinions at first, even their dislike for Miss Moore. However, Sugar begins to drift away from Sylvia as the novel progresses. It is initially seen when she touches the plastic sailboat at FAO Schwarz and speaks up on what she learned on the toy shop excursion. However, while Sylvia’s anger prevents her from successfully understanding and vocalizing her concerns, Sugar is ready to comprehend Miss Moore’s teaching without feeling resentful. Thus, the toy store experience proved meaningful to Sugar, but now she had to cope with a specific understanding barrier between her and Sylvia.
Hence, both responses from Sylvia and Sugar vary greatly and show their attitudes toward social problems. While, at first, Sylvia and Sugar seem to share the same opinions and worldviews, in the end, they drift apart. The trip to the toy store shifted Sylvia’s anger towards the wealthy people and social inequality. Meanwhile, Sugar is concentrated on the learned lesson and the experience from the excursion.
Bambara, Toni Cade. “The Lesson.” Gorilla, My Love. Random House, 1972. 85-96.