Social Inequalities in “The Lesson” by Toni Bambara

Social Inequalities in “The Lesson” by Toni Bambara

The “Lesson” by Toni Bambara is a short story narrated in the first-person voice of a young American girl called Sylvia. The short story uncovers the racial divide in this particular community and the social justice aspect as seen in the 1960s and 70s, when the civil rights movement was strong (Bambara 86). Through the voice of Sylvia, Bambara reveals the social injustices prevalent in the American society at the time.

The author in this reading uses the voice of a child, which is honest and unassuming, to uncover the extent to which the American society is unjust and unfair to African Americans. The children in the story grow up in a society in which they feel they are outcasts. Mrs. Moore, their teacher, tries to make them aware of the inequalities which exist between the white and black population (Bambara 89). When Sylvia keeps Mrs. Moore’s dollars, this shows that she is now conscious concerning the value of money where before, she had no understanding concerning the importance of money in her life.

The most important element of Bambara’s story is the style that she uses to bring her ideas across. The story is told in the first-person perspective, which makes the audience to empathize with the character. Furthermore, Bambara employs a wide range of vocabulary to give a better understanding of the background of her characters. The use of slang and colloquial features can be seen in words such as “some kinda shape.” This usage helps to create a feeling of authenticity, which allows the audience to connect with the characters in the story. These different literary devices have an important role in enhancing the message and connecting with the audience.

By highlighting the poor social status of the characters, the author emphasizes the racial inequalities present in the American society. It reveals how the rich can access quality education while the poor suffer because of limited resources. In this regard, Bambara advances the idea that education is one of the factors that contribute to the worsening of social inequalities in America. This is because African Americans lack access to quality education, which could promote their upward social mobility by helping them secure better paying jobs. In contrast, Whites dominate the white-collar job market, because their privileged schooling. The author suggests that the problem of social inequality in America can be solved by helping blacks to access quality education.

Work Cited

Bambara, Toni Cade. “The lesson.” Gorilla, my Love (1972): 85-96.

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