The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  991 Words
Date:  2021-09-02


The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara is a creative short story article that has been used to depict the demographic environment of the time the story was written. The time of occurrence is not stated, but the author mentions the earlier days where everyone was young and foolish or old and stupid (Bambara, 1972). The tale talks about a marginalized community shadowed by the white supremacy in their lifestyle, education, and environment. It is staged at a toy store shop, FAO Schwarz, where the children, through the guidance of Miss Moore, their tutor, have engaged them in some real-life experience (Dozier, 2013), that are themes of The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara. The story brings out the social system set up for children in which they grow up. Through Sylvia, we see how judgmental the society is towards race and character. From the beginning of the story, she portrays Miss Moore as a villain, secluding her with her race when she portrays her as being as black as hell (Bambara, 1972). In turn, Miss Moore is kind and caring to the society by offering gingerbread and books to the neighborhood. She is determined to pass knowledge to the children by using real-life experiences to pass across important lessons to them.

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Social Injustice and Economic Inequality in the Lesson Toni Cade Bambara

On first sight of the toy store, that is setting of The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara, the children are easily gullied towards the window with the fascinating toys, but the prices depict the level of economic inequality where Sylvia and Sugar joined up to talk down Big Butt from saving for the microscope noting that it will take too long to save up for it. Miss Moore is determined to educate the children despite their fascination on a paperweight about its application in real life situations in their house study area. Sylvia's judgmental aspect comes out strongly with her pride as Sugar and her state that Mercedes is the one concerned with the paperweight due to her extreme tidiness. Education is seen as a leveling factor among all the kids despite their economic inequalities.

The children interact about their experiences with sailboats after viewing the obscene price tags. From the conversation raised by Miss Moore who was waiting to see the response after the children viewing the price tag, it stipulates the economic background of the group and even Sylvia was astounded by the price despite depicting herself as different from the rest of the lot. The reaction by her to Miss Moore and going further to ask her how much a real boat would cost indicates that Miss Moore was making a breakthrough to her and the value of knowledge gained from the outside experience was valuable. Her remarks though were an indication of her not letting go of her pride despite the value of knowledge she would gather after she disagreed with Miss Moore when she was asked to go and check out and report back to the class. The notion of inequality was brought out clearly when Sugar hesitated to open the door of the store when it was time to enter since Sylvia stood back also (Dozier, 2013). Sylvia had shown superiority throughout the journey as Sugar imitates anything she does and she is quick at following all her actions, and Sylvia goes further to punish her when she was teased about the church incident.

What Lesson Do the Kids Learn in the Lesson Toni Bambara

As a way of teaching Sylvia a lesson, Miss Moore went on to mock her when she asked her what they were doing in the store. Miss Moore was quick to answer her by asking if she was angry about something and it was at this point Sylvia humbled and went on with her business as they walked at the back of the pack with Sugar as they gazed at the toys. Economic inequality was evident once more when Sylvia was thinking about the prices of the toys as she imagined a thirty-five dollar toy being sold at the FAO Schwarz store. The Lesson further indicates that back in their neighborhood the money for those toys would sustain a whole household and pay the rent and bills (Bambara, 1972). In her lessons, Miss Moore, she usually talks about people from their society having to demand an equal share (pie), but on that day it was practical about the level of inequality that exists between the two communities. Notably, this makes Sylvia wonder where the people live and the work they do to afford the kind of luxuries in that store.

Mercedes was shoved off by her colleagues when she reiterated that she would like to go back to the store after she gets her birthday money. This act indicates the way the society is divided into economic lines and race, but the uniting factor among all of them is education. The events of the day shed some light to Sugar who rebelled against Sylvia and confessed that the value of the toys was worth what their families could eat in a year. This act of rebellion against Sylvia shows that knowledge can help the society to get an edge over being suppressed and undermined by those privileged regarding money and race.


From the story of The Lesson, we see that at the end Sylvia was left thinking about what they had learned despite being arrogant to Miss Moore. Additionally, knowledge could grant one an edge over poverty in a society described by economic inequalities and the race one comes from. Miss Moore's determination to impart knowledge to the group also depicts how society can aid the less fortunate by offering knowledge and teaching them against the social norms we are adapted to.


Dozier, B. (2013, July). Literary Analysis The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara. Retrieved from

Bambara, T (1972). The lesson. New York: The Continuum Publishing Corporation

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The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara Essay. (2021, Sep 02). Retrieved from

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