“The Lesson” by Tony Cade Bambara

The short story “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara was first published in 1972. This story follows the thoughts and actions of Sylvia, a teenage girl with a sassy attitude toward everyone she meets, and her best friend Sugar, who serves as her right hand. Despite Sylvia’s bad mood, she may undergo a significant change due to the woman she despises: Miss Moore. This essay will focus on Sylvia’s actions and decisions to illustrate the changes that occurred in her life.

Growing up can be a gradual process, but it can be challenging to deal with when it happens suddenly and unexpectedly. Some experiences profoundly alter a person’s perspective and outlook. Sylvia learns a lesson about social class and the consequences of wealth while also losing some of her childhood innocence. Sylvia is resistant to this lesson, so the changes she undergoes are subtle but significant.

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Initially, Sylvia would rather waste her time than be polite, but the trip with Miss Moore opens her eyes to life’s injustices. When she leaves Harlem for New York City, she goes to a store that sells high-end items. Sylvia is curious about what kind of work people do to live in such luxury and afford things that cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. She grasps the lesson, and this realization comes as a revelation to her. Miss Moore appears to Sylvia to be an adversary at first, existing to make her summer days more interesting by giving free “lessons” to children in the neighborhood. Sylvia is irritated by the fact that she must dress up to accompany a woman she dislikes but learns a lot more about the consequences of her lifestyle by the end of the story. She discovers a distinction between rich and poor people, which, while not equitable, is genuine. She didn’t want her ability to control her life to deteriorate when she was a child. She has to do it because she is an intelligent young woman.

One of the ways Sylvia changes in “The Lesson” is through self-actualization. This shows her tone of voice in the opening paragraph: She speaks collectively. Sylvia, for example, talks about how she and Sugar see the world in the same way: “… Sugar and I were the only ones who got it right.” She can also be seen in the way you see Miss Moore: “And we hate her a little bit too, we hate the way we did it to drunks…” In both takes, Sylvia looks at the world in an imagination collectivized of the good. She sees reality in the “we” way. At the end of the story, Sylvia switches to a more selfish point of view (Bambara, 1972).

The story’s last words reflect an individualistic language that Sylvia did not initially demonstrate: “But no one is going to beat me in Nuthin.” When Sylvia breaks up with Sugar to “think about the day,” it becomes clear that she has become more individualistic. She is not that collective in her language and behavior. The change in language and focus reflects Sylvia’s self-actualization. She has become more aware of the world and her place in it. In a way, Sylvia emerged from a cave and entered a new world. It is a world where there are many questions. For example, she does not understand why she is angry about what happened. You have to think about what happened, away from other people. The understanding that appears at the end of the story is vague, but it also reflects a fundamental value. These are examples of the self-realization that Sylvia experienced. They are going to show how Miss Moore’s lessons have changed her.

Sylvia is a disrespectful preteen product of those around her at the start of the short story. Her personality traits are defined by her use of colloquial language and rude actions. Miss Moore and Sugar were the only “perfect” people in her neighborhood when she moved in. Everyone else, in her opinion, has flaws that make them appear ridiculous. She lives in an area of Harlem where many people are related. There is little desire for a different life, and Sylvia sees no reason to change things. Miss Moore’s summer classes are no longer an issue for Sylvia, and she reluctantly joins the quick field trip ride to Manhattan. It is only a short taxi ride to Manhattan, but it is a long way from Sylvia’s neighborhood. Following her trip to Manhattan and meeting with F.A.O. Schwartz, Sylvia is introspective. Her cousin is overjoyed to be back in their old neighborhood. Sylvia declines Sugar’s challenge to a race to the store for treats because she needs some time alone to process the day’s events. She declares that nothing will defeat her and that there is more to life than that.

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In conclusion, it is evident that some experiences profoundly alter a person’s perspective and outlook. Growing up can be a gradual process, but it can be challenging to deal with when it happens suddenly and unexpectedly. This has been illustrated through our main character, Sylvia, as shown above. Despite Sylvia’s bad attitude, she underwent a significant change due to Miss Moore’s woman she despises.

References

Bambara, T. C. (1972). The lesson. Gorilla, my love, 85-96.

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