Harlem Ghetto in “The Lesson” by Tony Bambara

Introduction

Literary work is a reflection of what is happening in the society. Authors normally voice their opinions about issues affecting the society through various themes. These themes are closely linked together through analysis of a character’s actions. In the contemporary society, introduction of literature research has extensively increased the volume of literature in every topic of interest researchers may be interested in especially in use of expression tools such as metaphors to present a symbolic view that a character display in a play or a book. As a matter of fact, irrespective of the level of knowledge and understanding of research facets, literature versions are inclusive of literature tools such as metaphors.

Literature comparison is about enjoying the phrases, feeling the narrator’s words in action, imagining, and placing oneself in the writer’s shoes. Writings with consistent assumptions and symbolic insinuation add comprehensiveness to sentence structures or phrases with hidden meaning. Thus, this reflective treatise attempts to explicitly review the theme of triangulated desires in the story, The Lesson by Tony Bambara in order to understand the society that the children in the Harlem Ghetto.

Overview of the short story

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 an unspecified location within the 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 to even 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).

Critical response

This story mainly dwells on triangulated desires and its holistic perception as influenced by fear, anxiety, and social status among the children who are raised in the poor neighborhood of Harlem. The books show how an individual’s sense of identity is vulnerable to manipulation by others within the same group since the desires and challenges in life are similar as is the case with Sugar and Mercedes. Tony Bambara relied heavily in a balance of irony, realism, and parody in the story, The Lesson, to present a distinct literary style in depicting different societal setups that presents a contrast between the children in a rich neighborhood and the children raised in the slums of Harlem.

Through the use of literary tools, the author was successful in addressing anxiety and fear in the theme of triangulated desires as the six young friends find it difficult to understand the intentions of Miss Moore during the entire trip to Manhattan.

This theme forms the foundations upon which the societies at that time were built since the disparity between the rich and the poor was very clear. This story can relate to the television series, The Have and the Have Nots, by Tyler Perry where the lifestyle of a character called Candis, who is from a poor background, is a contrast of the life of her friend from the affluent Tim Crier family. In the end, Candis does not embrace any advice from her mother and opts for a short cut to wealth accumulation through prostitution and other illegal businesses. Triangulated desires as a thematic touch on identity crisis, tradition, manipulation, and peer influence (Tracy par. 13).

As observed in Silvia’s society, the black children desire to discover and explore their imaginations in their deep ‘wanna-be bad’ attitude. Reflectively, the main character Silvia, the narrator, and her friends such as Sugar, Mercedes, Q.T, Rosie, Fat Butt, Flyboy, and Rosie showed an image of poor children who are caught in a poverty trap and have developed a negative perception towards fine things simply because they cannot stomach idealist lifestyle that Miss Moore is trying to propose.

The author artistically underscores the traditional position on triangulated desires as a trajectory and paradoxically dependent on desire nurtured by peer pressure to form the underlying huddles towards fulfilling the traditionally internalized protagonist beliefs in discipline as a normative social positioning institution. Bambara then endeavors to expose these excesses of desire to break from societal norms and formative desire bonds, which climax in final resolution and suspense as the narrator finds herself in. 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 is the force behind the need for raising consciousness among the minors to open up to the realities of social inequality. Instead of passing down an abstract knowledge to the young minds, Miss Moore adopts practical approach such as toy pricing and calculation of ten percent of the tip she offers them. Miss Moore may be considered as 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).

In addressing this theme, the author uses triangulated desires privilege to authenticate the desires and reaction by the children who were raised in a poor society. Reflectively, integrating this in the theme of triangulated desires introduces physical and emotional insistent, which is climaxed in momentous fulfillment achievement. The theme of hidden and recurring desires control the lives of main character and her friends. This aspect is narrow and creates an essence of assuming a static plot setting. This is a wise way to maintain the literature touch, making it simpler to understand. The author has created a quantifiable and intrinsic reader’s understanding of what metaphoric use of a character was about and the resultant effect created. The six friends are presented as very intelligent, frank, and adventurous.

However, their lack of experience has led them to unprecedented hatred towards a teacher who wants to change their perception towards life. For instance, the journey in a cab is significant in building dramatic tension between 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 enable 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. In order to drive the point home, Miss Moore makes the statement that “where we are who we are” (Bambara par. 7).

Without the theme of desire, this story would be similar to watching a movie with no camera effects, no sound effects, and with unknown characters as the only aim is passing a message. In the theme of triangulated desires, characterizing the powerful in the society and the weaker ones in their desire to climb the economic ladder makes it easy to understand the attitude of the children towards their teacher.

The society is painted as unfair to the poor children in the society who fall victims to the consequences of imbalances as a result of racial and economic alienations. In quest to fulfill desires, poor children raised in the Harlem slum share same attitude towards alienation. Interestingly, the wall limiting desires are an unending phenomenon which cannot be destroyed due to wider economic disparities in the society. Instead of focusing on either antagonistic or protagonist stand, the narrator presents a brief on both sides. For instance, the toys of the rich children cannot be contrasted to the toys that Sylvia and her friends have at home.

Consistent use of this theme more than once alongside other literary devices has made the six main characters, that is, Silvia, the narrator, Sugar, Mercedes, Q.T, Rosie, Fat Butt, Flyboy, and Rosie stand out as a fun loving youths verses Miss Moore, an antagonist, in a battle to satisfy the ego and undying desires. However, at the end of the struggle, the spontaneous desire hits the wall for the six friends who recognize the disparities in the society and come around the views of Miss Moore.

For instance, the narrator notes, “Miss Moore lines us up in front of the mailbox where we started…and we lean all over each other so we can hold up under the draggy ass lecture she always finishes us off with at the end before we thank her for borin us to tear” (Bambara par. 13).

Same as in the contemporary society, triangulated desires often stops reasoning and slows people from examining the limits of pragmatic possibilities necessary for psychological reconciliation. Fortunately, the self-regulating society seems to offer a facilitated explanation of mutual support. The society has imposed the above thought as an expression to resonate from the need for a better life and communicate past negative experiences. This is achieved through the process of appreciating the social power as enabling the society to function coherently within minimal tension, despite having different desires (Kakutani par. 5).

The children in the Harlem society often lack personal conviction as the basis of the ideal fundamental social norms that minimizes conflict in the process of creating a systematic orientation for fulfilling desires that are brought about by economic and social alienations as is the case with Silvia and her friends. Due to an unbalanced personal identity, which is a component of realism, the children in the Miss Moore’s tour have failed to recognize the aspects of loyalty and moral crisis, which give a lifeline to a typical society filled by personal interests. Human action drama, which combines stories of self-discovery and love through mingling the ‘futuristic’ and the ‘realistic’ imaginations, has compromised the ideal behavior that Miss Moore expects from the children.

The theme of triangulated desire is relevant in the contemporary society where the difference between unity and hatred is defined by a thin line of personal interests. In most cases, the losers remain to wallow in regret as winners blow trumpet. The driving force towards triangulating desires remains to be family, love and the need to belong. Despite these desires, the society as a bond unites different personalities and these desires often remain hidden within a person.

This theme conveys a special message to modern children to think about their lives. Actually, the story compels children to be open-minded and to embrace objective deeds beyond personal gratification. Besides, the story conveys a useful message to children who continue with their endeavor to fulfill triangulated desires blindness without nourishing the values of determination and hard work in life. Actually, the author aimed to use this story to frighten the society in order to come out of triangulated desires into compliance with societal norms.

Works Cited

Bambara, Tony. The Lesson. 2009. Web.

Kakutani, Michiko. “Books of the Times.” New York Times. 2008. Print.

Tracy, Caldwell. “Coming to Terms with Oneself.” Literary Theme. 2006. Web.