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"The Lesson" By Toni Bambara Essay

1350 words - 5 pages

In the short story, "The Lesson," Toni Bambara reveals the injustice in society in the United States through the eyes of young ghetto children. A field trip to an expensive toy store exposes the bitter truth of society; not everyone has an equal opportunity to make money. In the children's view, everyone should have an equal standard of living. Toni Bambara effectively articulates the unfairness of economic inequality through the use of three short story elements: language, character, and theme.The author chooses to use informal diction to closely relate the readers to the economic problems that children are facing. The children in the story speak non-standard English. Instead, they speak in AAVE, or African American Vernacular English; throughout the story the reader can easily find slang and other colloquial expressions, such as "sorry-ass... goddamn gas mask." (pg.90) Although it may sound disturbing, this authentic voice adds realism and humor to the story. The narrator's diction provides us with clues about the background of characters; her frequent usage of non-standard English indicates that Sylvia is not educated. She uses a phrase, "nappy head bitch," (pg.90) which both denotes and connotes. The word "nappy head" denotes "small tight curls." However, it has a negative connotation which is used in colloquial or derogatory reference to the hair of black people; it is a racist term against black people. Informal diction also narrows the gap between the reader and the text, thus emphasizing the economic injustice. If the story were written in formal diction, it would not have had the same effect; we would not realize the profound unfairness of society.By selecting African American ghetto children as major characters, the author adds reality to the economic difficulties that they face, and highlights the unfairness of society. The children in the story live in the slums, and their parents do not look after them. Miss Moore takes responsibility for educating the children. She is an unwavering woman who is determined to teach the children about the unequal distribution of money and the problems that African Americans and poor people face. Miss Moore takes eight children on a fieldtrip to an expensive toy store, and challenges them to think about what they see. Even though it may seem harsh to reveal the bitter truth to the young children, she has a clear reason for bringing the children to the toy store; she wants them to think about social injustice. She feels that the children should learn the lesson even though it might be painful. Miss Moore is a static character; she remains unchanged. Her ultimate goal is to educate the children so that they resist inequality and bring changes to the society, and this stays the same throughout the story. Miss Moore's motivation enriches the meaning of the story.All eight children are shocked to find out the unreasonable prices of the toys. However, regarding their behaviours and responses, the children...

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