Issues Of Race And Inequality In The Lesson And Everyday Use

The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara is a story narrated by Sylvia, a young African American highlighting the plight of the black community. Toni Cade Bambara introduced us to issues relating to the topic of the unfairness distribution of wealth in society. The setting of the story back in the 1970s illuminates into the issues of appearance, race, and equality that affect the social fabric and interrelationship between individuals in the country. The lesson recounts the observation by this little girl and her appraisal about the influence of differences arising from racial background on the financial spectrum and economic outcomes of individuals from the different races. “Everyday Use” is a story retold by a woman of color, narrating her state of consciousness and the line of thought going on about the coming of her educated and empowered daughter now hitched to a white man. The mother contrasts her life and that of their daughter, Dee, against that of Maggie, who suffers the scars of fire and non-education. Both stories look at life from the spectrum of race, social outcomes and the influence of both ethnic background and educational attainment of the financial spectrum of individuals. However, their narration and details differ slightly on their line of focus and the approach they take in illuminating race. A comparison and contrast will help to establish the similarities and differences that arise in these two narrations and their influence on both interpretation and their overall significance. 

“The Lesson” and “Everyday Use” are both narrations which investigate the experiences and encounters of families at the verge of social desolation and struggle due to their ethnic background. Both narrators are of colored origin, and they use their origin as the lens with which they observe and appraise the issue of social and economic outcomes. Mama reflects on her background as an uneducated woman and the fate of her two daughters, which is starkly different. Maggie, suffering the scars of childhood bears the influence of desolation and has stayed with her to the present state at the point of narration. Dee managed education and lives a different life, now with a white man who drives a car. The story in “The Lesson” bears a similar background where Sylvia contrasts the lives of whites and blacks. The influence of educational background such as that of Miss Moore creates the difference between access to social housing and other amenities in the African American population and the level of excesses experienced amongst the other racial group. 

Both stories explore the issues of racial inequality and ethnic marginalization which influence the subjects and define their financial and economic conditions. The Lesson is a narration where the author, Toni Cade Bambara, seeks to develop a focus on the issues of appearance, class, and prevailing level of inequality within the society. Bambara uses Sylvia to reflect on the difference in social conditions and how the presence of education has the potency of changing this whole situation for the better. Sylvia, the narrating subject also illustrates how it is possible to change the whole narrative about race and financial outcome through education, which leads to emancipation and a sense of empowerment. Alice Walker adopts a similar view when she uses the personal of Dee, a black subject who is a testimony of racial emancipation and the influence of education on the social and economic conditions of an individual. The narration caps with an illustration that the mother needs to change perspective and view for them to understand their black heritage. Both accounts illustrate that a close understanding of racial background is the perfect background for racial minorities in their path to achieving a change in their level of social and economic reality. 

There is a level of contrast in the perspective and background of the narrators, which has an influence on their contribution towards the development of both accounts. The Lesson uses Sylvia, a young African American who is observant and easily picks out the differences between individuals based on their social and educational background. Sylvia notes that when an individual has the privilege of a good education and race, they can afford some of the niceties that are unheard in the minority race. For instance, the black population depends on social support while the whites have a privilege of spending in excess on things that are only a far sought luxury for the other population. Such things include toys, which the privileged access while the marginalized struggled to afford a square meal for their families. The approach in ‘Everyday Use’ is slightly different because the narrator does not have the same level of observation. The mother to two daughters, Dee and Maggie does not have an education. However, she yearns for a situation where she can relate with her daughter in the long-held fantasies of film and reality television. However, in her yearning she does not recognize that education is the source of all the difference which exists between them and Dee. 

The conclusion of both narrations is also different, especially in their significance and contribution towards resolving the main theme of inequality and different economic outcomes. ‘The Lesson’ culminates in a better understanding of the influence of education in social and economic empowerment. Therefore, the subjects have managed to develop a good understanding of the best course that would allow them to change their economic situation. Miss Moore is making an impact in the lives of kids through education. Sylvia has learned the value of four dollars, a product of emancipation and a process of mental growth. However, the narrative in ‘Everyday Use’ is slightly different. The mother ends up in the same state without a mental recluse or any form of change that would signify a better understanding of the influence of education and empowerment on economic equality. The mother and another daughter, Maggie, remain the same state despite Dee imploring her to change the narrative and develop a better understanding of race and their heritage. The contract illustrates how difference in recognizing and acknowledging the process of empowerment could make all the difference in individuals. 

The narrations in ‘The Lesson’ and ‘Everyday Use’ investigate critical issues of race and inequality from the lens of the individuals who are affected. The accounts predominantly focus on the plight of minorities, especially females who are the perceived lesser gender and subjects of social and racial exclusion in society. Both accounts also show a glimmer by illustrating how educational attainment and the process of empowerment has the power to create a difference in the lives of individuals. In contrast, there is an illustration of the difference, both in reflection and the level of understanding about the concept of race and its contribution within society. Some of the subjects in one account recognize the power of empowerment and use their position to make a difference. However, there are the others such as the mother in ‘Everyday Use’ who remain in their state of desolation and lack of understanding despite the greater influence and growth in their level of understanding. Altogether, the stories develop insightful lessons on race, equality and the course of empowerment.

16 August 2021
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