When Toni Cade Bambara wrote "The Lesson" she had a definite meaning in
mind. The author wanted to stress the inappropriate dispersion of wealth in
America. The main device Bambara uses to create her point is contrast.
Sylvia, the young narrator, talks about how her family could pay for the
rent and then some for the same cost as a toy clown. The difference between
the incomes of Sylvia’s family and a person who could afford to buy the toy
is vast. Another contrast made by Bambara was the difference in the
neighborhoods that the story took place in. The small poor neighborhood in
which the story started and finished was the perfect place for the girls to
be. They owned their little neighborhood. It was not a surprise when the
girls were taken to bustling downtown New York and were awestruck. Even
though the city wasn’t in some distant land, located far far away, the
children were in culture shock. A part of the story that emphasizes this is
when the children get out of the cab onto 5th avenue and all they see is
"Everybody dressed up in stockings. One lady in a fur coat, hot as it is.
White folks crazy" (p.2). These poor children were submerged into the
culture of the wealthy without the knowledge or education to understand the
Another issue that Bambara stresses is the lack of teaching by the parents.
She emphasizes this by having a stranger come into these children’s lives
and teach them about the "real world. The parents and not a stranger should
do the job of teaching these children the lessons of life. Every child needs
to learn the lessons of social classes at a young age, so that they know
that they can rise above what they were born into. A line from the end of
the story sums this point up nicely: "I think…that this is not much of a
democracy of you ask me. An equal chance at happiness means an equal crack
at the dough, don’t it?" (p.5). The f...