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Bambara's Lesson

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 differences. 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 fact that a y...

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Bambara's Lesson. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:15, July 05, 2015, from