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The short story, “The Lesson,” by Tony Bambara is one of the many stories the author created about children growing in neighborhoods. The story was published in the year 1972. The short story reflects on the comprehension of fiscal inequity in American society during the 1960s through the observations of a young black girl.
The short story, “The Lesson,” is narrated by Silvia from a first person’s perspective. Silvia is a young black female who is growing up in unspecified location within Harlem ghetto. The narrator’s friends called Sugar, Mercedes, Q.T, Rosie, Fat Butt, Flyboy, and Rosie seem to pick on Miss Moore, who is the only female in the neighborhood with a college education. The friends are uneasy with Miss Moore and have very unkind feelings towards her during the entire school trip to Manhattan in a placed called FAO Schwartz (Bambara par. 2).
The primary intention of Miss Moore is to expose the children to the outside world away from the everyday oppression and limited opportunities. The unappreciative school children are surprised that toys in FAO Schwartz are more expensive than their combined annual household incomes. The children cannot believe their eyes that a mere toy could be that expensive! The white children in FAO Schwartz own these expensive toys do not shy away from showing them off to the entourage accompanying Miss Moore.
However, despite Miss Moore’s pure intentions of exposure, Sylvia and her friends’ reservations make them very contemptuous even to appreciate the good gesture. Instead, they make naughty plans on how to splurge the change from cab fee they swindled from Miss Moore. However, Sylvia changes her mind and departs from her friends’ plans to retreat and ponder about the occurrences of the trip (Bambara par. 3).
In the eyes of the narrator and her friends, Miss Moore is an antagonist who is conspiring with their parents to prevent them from experiencing carefree fun. The intentions of Miss Moore are considered by the protagonists as mean, boring, and lifeless ways of denying them the chance to enjoy the summer break. In the actual sense, Miss Moore is an ally of Sylvia and her friends. She the force behind the need for raised consciousness among the minors to open up to the realities of social inequality.
Instead of passing down abstract knowledge to the young minds, Miss Moore adopts a practical approach such as toy pricing and calculation of ten percent of the tip she offers them. Miss Moore may be considered triumphant since Sylvia, who was her hardest sell, ends up following this approach and thinks through her actions in the company of other friends (Bambara par. 5).
The journey in a cab is significant in building dramatic tension among the characters which climax at the store where the eyes of the minors are opened to see the actual alienation effect. The Saucy words and informal narration enables the readers to see through and share the change experience that the children underwent. For instance, the sailboat toy which costs $ 1,000 invokes an acute awareness among the children about their fiscal deficits. Besides, the microscope in the story symbolizes the actions of Miss Moore to reveal the hidden blindness among the young learners about oppression in the Harlem ghetto. To drive the point home, Miss Moore makes the statement that “where we are is who we are” (Bambara par. 7).
Bambara, Tony. The Lesson. Web.