After reading Toni Cade Bambara's, The Lesson, the reader is left with a sense of hope for the first person narrator Sylvia and her friends. Following her and her friends from the slums of New York, to a Fifth Avenue F.A.O. Swartz, one gets an idea as to the kind of environment they came from, the type of education they received, and the sense of economic imbalance they bear witness to. Through this the antagonist, Miss Moore, is able to let the children evaluate for themselves the difference between the Fifth Avenue world and the one they are from, at an age where the impression made upon them might generate a spark of desire to find out how they might achieve the same rewards Fifth Avenue has to offer.
The story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, first person narrator, Sylvia. Sylvia is a preteen African American girl, strong willed, intelligent, and the obvious leader of the pack. The story's plot involves a college educated black woman who comes back to an economically disadvantaged neighborhood on weekends and takes the local children on field trips of a sort. On this particular trip she lets the children experience their first ride in a taxicab to a toy store in Manhattan. It is played out through a chronological series of events from the time they leave their neighborhood, until the time they arrive back there.
The exposition introduces the reader to, Sylvia, Miss Moore, Sylvia's friends, and the neighborhood. Sylvia's friends consist of a number of round characters, such as Junebug, Mercedes, Fat Butt, and Rosie Giraffe, as well as the stock characters Sugar, Q.T. and Junior. The setting is what seems to be a 1960' circa slum.
As the story develops the reader gets a glimpse of Sylvia's “street smarts” and leadership role as they travel in the cab to the toy store. The group horses around in the taxi while Sylvia is scheming a way to keep the money for herself. Miss Moore is aware of this when she gives them the money, lending the reader to believe this is all part of the lesson for the day; it is. By doing this she is showing the children the value of money and work. When they arrive at the store the lesson continues as they gawk at the toys in the window and find it hard to comprehend what kind of people have this kind of money to throw away on toys.
The turning point occurs when Sylvia's best friend, Sugar, questions Miss Moore about the fairness of people spending the same amount of money on a toy that some families would use for basic survival needs. This leads to the climax where Sylvia confesses, “ And somethin weird is goin on, I can feel it in my chest.” ( Bambara, 653). This shows Sylvia's feeling of betrayal by her friend along with the realization that she is right, and Sylvia is having a hard time digesting the true facts of inequality, along with the fact that she now feels small herself.
The denouement is the last line of the story where Sylvia states, “But aint nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.”...