Bambara Essay, Research Paper
The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara
Toni Cade Bambara’s The Lesson is a very well written piece of history. This is a story from yesterday, when Harlem children didn’t have good education or the money to spring for it. Bambara’s tale tells about a little girl who doesn’t really know how to take it when a good teacher finally does come along. This girl’s whole life is within the poverty stricken area and she doesn’t see why she must try hard. The teacher, Miss Moore, shows them what it is all about by taking them to a rich toy store, one in which a single toy costs more than year’s supply of food.
We immediately learn that Miss Moore is not the average Harlem teacher. She is educated herself, along with being very opinionated. The children explain that she has nappy hair and no makeup, probably signifying that she was a part of the African American movement. Miss Moore was more than arithmetic and spelling. She attempted to teach the children about life and politics as well. In a way the children were innocent before Miss Moore came along. They thought that everyone else old, stupid, young, or foolish- while the children were perfect. Miss Moore showed them what they truly were- and why education was so important.
The first thing learned is that poverty is a way of life for these children. Although they know they are poor, it doesn’t bother them because everyone there is poor. It’s okay to be without when there isn’t any competition. An example of this is seen when the children talk of their study areas at home. Only one of them actually have a desk and paper, and the others think nothing of it. Instead they tell her to shut up about it. The children are proud of themselves and of their life.
Miss Moore finally leads the kids to the toy store. The are immediately dazzled by the toys in the windows; even declaring which ones they were gonna buy. The children seemed to know they couldn’t afford the toys, but they didn’t think they would be off by much. The once brave and proud and strong children were hobbled at the door, none of which wanting to go in first. Here is the point where they get slapped in the face. Here is where they first see that they do not belong here. Eventually one of them pushes through the crowd and throws herself into the gallery of toys. They go around gazing at the different objects. Miss Moore drives the point home by leading them to the fact that one toy costs as much as their family eats in a year. In the end they feel like fighting for more than they have.
One thing that pulls the reader deeply into the story is the narration. It is told through the eye’s of a little Harlem girl. She thinks she is tough and mean but the reader sees she is not by reading between the lines. The best part of the narration is the voice. The lines that are read are in the dialect of the girl. This gives the voice a poetic rhythm that keeps the story flowing. With out slang the story would lose a lot of it’s heart.