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Knowledge And Poverty In The Lesson By Toni Cade Bambara

1221 words - 5 pages

Toni Cade Bambara addresses how knowledge is the means by which one can escape out of poverty in her story The Lesson. In her story she identifies with race, economic inequality, and literary epiphany during the early 1970’s. In this story children of African American progeny come face to face with their own poverty and reality. This realism of society’s social standard was made known to them on a sunny afternoon field trip to a toy store on Fifth Avenue. Through the use of an African American protagonist Miss Moore and antagonist Sylvia who later becomes the sub protagonist and White society the antagonist “the lesson” was ironically taught.
Bambara identifies with race through class and demographics in her story The Lesson. The African American children come to terms with their classed society while visiting a pricey, Manhattan toy store. Sylvia states “Then we checked out that we on Fifth Avenue and everybody dressed up in stockings. One lady in fur coat, hot as it is. White folks crazy” (643). Sylvia discovers that White people don’t dress like African Americans, even if they share the same type of weather condition. She recognizes that they have money and they have a tendency to give you an idea about how wealthy they are. “Must be rich people shop here, say Q.T.”(645). One of the children on the trip was able to identify with the demographic of the area. He acknowledged that people who had status and wealth were the one most likely to buy toys and things that expensive. Bambara give readers an insight about the 1970’s and what life was like for those of status in white society. How Whites could afford costly toys while those of African American society could not. Sylvia also recognized behavior patterns in a White atmosphere as she compares the toy store to the inside of a Catholic church. Sylvia proclaims “everything so hushed and holy…same thing in the store. We all walkin on tiptoe and hardly touchin the games and puzzles and things” (646). The toy store in the White neighborhood was not like the one she and the other children were use to in her Harlem community where thing were cheap and quickly replaced. To her this Toy store was something too pure to be touched and most precious because it belonged to those of wealth and it was not for her people of poor quality to demolish.
Throughout The Lesson economic class was deal with among the children in F.A.O Schwartz toy store. Sylvia mentions what Miss Moore have been saying about the economic barrier she states “how money ain’t divided up right in this country. And then she gets to the part about we all poor and live in the slums, which I don’t feature” (643). Even before the children were on their journey they were being made aware of the economic gap. A gap in which there were those who had more money than others. This was a reminder of the conditions in which they lived compared to others who had the money. Some of the children on the trip identified with the economic gap among...

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