The Portrayal of African American in The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara

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Throughout history, society has set a standard for not only minors but minorities also. Things like education, money, equality and basic rights were not granted to certain races much later than others. In this story, these African American children learn the importance in the value of money and being educated. Toni Cade Bambara presents a wide range of themes and analytical ‘’lessons’’ through and to the charcters of this story. In this short story, these children broadcast the cultural and systematic issues that not only people but African Americans in particular face on a daily. ‘’The Lesson’’ shows the importance of education and equality. 

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Not only do education play a huge role throughout your life, it is very vital because the outcome of the knowledge you acquired from the valuable ‘’lessons’’ you learn are mostly outside classroom. Yet, Sylvia is hostile towards the white upper class because she feels they are more privileged than ‘’her people’’. Bambara uses an uneducated and innocent dialogue to show the society inequalities and the hostile attitudes and behaviors which result from it.

It being the 1970’s and having children like, the protagonist, Syliva tell the story with such innocence and honesty sets a great tone throughout this story. Simple things like seeing the price difference and quality in their toys compared to toys that ‘’could feed up to a family of six’’ showed the children social equality. Sylvia and her classmates understand that it’s a widen range in difference within a white household in contrast to a black house hold. Not only did we lack on educating our youth but also certain situations and how they show great symbolism hence why Syliva pretty much have the answer to everything. Miss Moore utilize this trip to give a clear examples on this unjust economic society that created one-sided access and laws to equal money and equal resources for black Americans.

The ‘’lesson’’ on this economic inequality is almost deemed resentful to the children, but they also become curious to open themselves up to the ‘’lessons’’ dawned on them by Miss Moore. Sylvia seeks solitude by the end of the day however has found a way to direct her anger and issues by saying 'ain't nobody gonna beat me at nuthin,' 

Sugar and Sylvia are cousins and also good friends who have grown up together in the same poor conditions. By the end of the story Sylvia and Sugar are like the two sides of a coin. Sylvia takes the lesson with her and puts it to use while Sugar forgets about it. However. there are several other characters in the story such as Junebug, Flyboy, Fat Butt, Rosie Giraffe, Mercedes, and QT. Junebug is childish and most likely younger than Sylvia. Flyboy, like Sylvia, is outspoken. He is also smart; it is mentioned in the story that he is able to manipulate white people in school in order to ‘’sympathize’’ with him. Flyboy’s brother is Fat Butt whose name is actually Ronald and is described by Sylvia as a glutton. Ronald shows some interest in the microscope at FAO Swartz and could have some academic potential if he were able to gain access to a better education than the inner city schools are likely to provide. Rosie like Silvia is outspoken. She is also somewhat aggressive towards Mercedes who tries to be more proper than the other children and becomes the subjects of many jokes. Mercedes has things the other children do not have such as a desk and stationary that her godmother had given her. The jokes and aggression towards Mercedes may stem from jealousy over these petty items. Last is QT who is younger than the other children but seems to understand the sailboat at the giftshop is very expensive after staring at it for a long time. This story emphasizes that individuals who are segregated to certain environments are clueless about the outside world and the real value of money and it is up to Miss. Moore and themselves to show and prove that there is more to life than poverty and the lower class.

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