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Review of ‘The Lesson’ by Toni Cade Bambara .
The main theme in ‘The Lesson’ is poverty and wealth. The children live in squeezed apartments. Some sections smell of urine because some residents use these areas to relieve themselves.
The main protagonist is Miss Moore; an educated Black woman who wants the children in the neighborhood to experience education like herself.
Point of view
The story is narrated from Sylvia’s perspective, but not from Miss Moore’s. It is told in the first person.
Exposition time
The story’s setting is Harlem, in an unspecified time frame known only as “Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish, and me and Sugar were the only ones just right.”
Initial incident
The defining occurrence was when Miss Moore moved to the block where the narrator and her family live.
Rising Action
Rising action occurs when Miss Moore rounds up the narrator and her cohort, Sugar. The narrator says: ‘So this one day Miss Moore rounds us all up at the mailbox and it’s pure dee hot, and she’s knocking herself out about arithmetic.’
Climax occurs at the store when the narrator, Sugar, and Miss Moore look at the shocking prices of different items.
Falling action
It occurs when the narrator, Sugar, and Miss Moore return to the mailbox where they started their tour and summarize the day’s events.
The children realize that some people have so much money that they can spend on stupid toys, whereas others cannot even afford decent meals and housing.
The story is all about wealth and poverty. The narrator comes from a disadvantaged family, and Miss More, having been educated, wants the children to get an education so that they can escape poverty.
Characteristics of the author’s style
The author uses an African-American vernacular style to write the story. Some obscene words like ‘bitch’ are typically used to denote African-Americans, an ethnicity to which the narrator belongs.
The sailboat at the store is an expensive toy and a symbol of wealth. Some people have so much money that they can spend on such play items. In contrast, the narrator, her family, and her cohorts are symbols of poor black families.
It is ironic that Miss Moore never imagined she could get the children to have a different perspective of life and education, yet she touched Sylvia and Sugar. It is also ironic that Miss Moore cared less about the trip to FAO Schwarz, yet the visit greatly impacted Sylvia and Sugar.
Presentation of Characters
Sylvia and Sugar are presented as carefree teenagers, whereas Miss Moore is portrayed as a caring woman, who wants the best for their children.
Sylvia and Sugar fantasize about wealth. After the trip to the store, Sugar says: ‘You know, Miss Moore, I don’t think all of us here put together eat in a year what that sailboat costs.’
Flat characters
Miss Moore can be described as a flat character because she does not change much from the story’s beginning to the conclusion.
Round characters
Sylvia is a round character because she encounters conflicts and is changed by them
Stock characters
Miss Moore can also be described as a stock character because even her name seems to derive from her personality. She wants ‘MORE’ for the children, and it is by design rather than coincidence that her name is Miss Moore, and she does not have a first name.
Static characters
Miss Moore is also a static character. She does not undergo much change. She insists on helping the children achieve more and does not give up on her goals.
Dynamic characters
Sylvia and Sugar can be described as dynamic characters because they undergo significant inner and personal transformations throughout the story.


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