The social commentary and story of sylvia in the lesson a short story by toni cade bambara

Because the story focuses on the children, readers see how social and economic disadvantages are perpetuated and have lasting effects on future generations. Most important is the use of Sylvia as the narrator, because of her attitudes and her language. Sylvia has developed a smart-aleck, tough, self-centered stance to survive in the slum area. She is quick to think up or be involved with mischief, such as the time she accepts a dare to run into a Catholic church and do a tap dance at the altar.

The social commentary and story of sylvia in the lesson a short story by toni cade bambara

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In this story, she recalls the summer the summer she was put under the care of a certain Miss Moore. Because of her privileged position, she took it upon herself to try and educate the young black children of the neighborhood, which included Sylvia and her cousins, as well as her friend Sugar.

It was through this trip that Sylvia and her friends realized the great social divide that separated them from the rich, white kids. As such, the reader is able to relate directly with the story and the narrator. The use of the first person point of view is established immediately at the start of the story: Furthermore, using the first person narrative allows for more freedom in the choice of words, making the story feel like one rolling, intimate narrative.

The power of this technique is that it gives a realistic tone to the story. In this case, as the story is told from the point of view of a black adolescent girl, there is the use of the African-American vernacular throughout the story.

It is not limited to the conversations, which would happen if another point of view were used. Based on these lines, the reader gets the feeling that Sylvia is a tough girl, one who speaks her mind on things. On the hand, the use of vernacular allows for a way for the unique African-American experience to be conveyed.

This is, again, only possible in using the first person narrative. In this case, the theme of the story is the inequality faced by the blacks. Though the country is very rich, as symbolized by the toy store they went to, this material wealth is not equitably distributed.

By using the coarse, ungrammatical, and oftentimes wrongly spelled English that has come to be associated with the African-American variation, this theme of inequality shines forth.

Because these children are poor, they have not been properly educated. As such, it shows in their actions and words. Finally, in using the first person point of view, Bambara allows the reader to get deep under the skin and mind of the narrator.

The social commentary and story of sylvia in the lesson a short story by toni cade bambara

It gives the reader a lot of clues about what kind of person Sylvia is, clues that are not directly addressed nor exhibited in her narrative. For example, based on the way Sylvia describes the people around her, the places they were in, and the experiences they were having, she tells more about herself and the way she thinks than if she were to merely describe herself, the place she is in, or her experience: A clown that somersaults on a bar then does chin-ups just cause you yank lightly at his leg.

Thirty-five dollars and the whole household could go visit Grand-daddy Nelson in the country. Thirty-five dollars would pay for the rent and the piano bill too.

For the love of reading: Notes on Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson"

Her questions were indicative of the depth of her thoughts and feelings. The emotional depth afforded by this technique is powerful, allowing the reader to feel what Sylvia was feeling. Furthermore, this narrative allows for the use of the vernacular, which helps in furthering the theme of inequality that pervades the story.

Finally, the use of the first person narrative enriches Sylvia as a character through the numerous indirect clues obtained from the way she describes her experiences.“The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara, is a short story with many different character traits.

Miss Moore is a person in the short story who has many different traits. Miss Moore teaches the kids the value of a dollar in a unique way. "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara"The Lesson" written by Toni Cade Bambara is not only a story about a poor girl who feels out of place in an expensive place but also a social commentary.

It is a story about anAfrican-American girl struggling with her awareness of class inequality.


Sylvia, the narrator of Toni Cade Bambara's short story "The Lesson," is definitely a developing character. Sylvia cannot quite make sense of "the lesson" that Miss Moore has tried to teach the.

An African American Study of “The Lesson”, Toni Cade Bambara’s Short Story Naderi, Leila 1 Islamic Azad University, Marivan Branch Abstract.

One Comment

An outstanding feature of African American literature has been proved to be a distinctively variety of English language used prevalently among black. The theme of "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara is social inequality and the lack of quality education for African-American children.

This short story was first published in and is a narrative told in the first person by a young black girl growing up in Harlem. Toni Cade Bambara's short story, "The Lesson," takes place in inner city New York.

The main character, Sylvia, is a fourteen year old African American girl, who tells the story in a first person narrative.

Sylvia mentions Miss Moore, a teacher who felt that it was her duty to help underprivileged children learn.

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