Thematic Analyiss Of The Lesson By Toni Cade Bambara

What does it take a child to understand the concepts of social inequality and the understanding of poverty? The importance of education seems to be dismissed by the youth without realizing its value to economic success. The story also portrays the inner vulnerability of the children becoming aware of the unknown truths. The Lesson, is a short story written by Toni Cade Bambara, about low-income children learning a valuable lesson that applies to today’s society. Miss Moore, who takes it upon herself to educate the children takes them to a toy store that is beyond their dreams but economically unreachable at their age. The children specifically, Sylvia was more aware of her situation and social status in society in the process. The themes that are presented in this short story are social inequality, the unspoken problem of poverty, the importance of education, and finally becoming aware.

Social inequality still exists in today’s society, as a matter of fact, studies reveal that the income gap continues to grow between the rich and the poor according to the New York Times article. “Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven.” This expresses how uneven income has become distributed over many people, especially lower-income families. “The higher the U.S. income group, the larger the share of that income is derived from investment profits. By contrast, Americans who are not among the ultra-rich get the vast majority of their income from wages and salaries. This disparity has contributed significantly to increasing inequality because of the preferential tax treatment of long-term capital gains”. This states the growing problem of social inequality among the United States, the real question is how will society address now? It seems that the probability of change is dim but at least being aware of the problem can alter our minds about capitalism in today’s society.

Poverty, the state of being extremely poor. Poverty can also be defined as the human condition of being unable to obtain or provide a standard level of food, water, and shelter. “And then she gets to the part about we all poor and live in the slums which I don’t feature.” This shows, in the story that Sylvia is not aware of her community is living in poverty since she is still is not at all aware of her surroundings as well as not knowing why are the way things are around her. This further demonstrates the little knowledge she had of her community’s situation. “Poverty does not strike all demographics equally. For example, in 2018, 10.6% of men, and 12.9% of women lived in Poverty USA. Along the same lines, the poverty rate for married couples in 2018 was only 4.7% - but the poverty rate for single-parent families with no wife present was 12.7%, and for single-parent families with no husband present was 24.9%. In 2018, the poverty rate for people living with a disability was 25.7%. That’s nearly 4 million people living with a disability — in poverty.” This shows the growing problem of poverty in our society in the United States alone. The illusion that everything is fine in our society is masked with social media to not make us aware of the situation, for example, Instagram is perfect for showing people’s lives as more than it actually is. For the most part, The lesson, by Toni Cade Bambara opens the subject perfectly by bringing up the topic throughout the story, clearly stating that the children come from low-income families living in poverty. Poverty in today’s society should not be ignored or altered to make it look not as bad as it actually is.

The importance of education seems to be dismissed by the youth without realizing its value to economic success even more in today’s society. Many can say that nowadays people, the youth does not see the value of education with so much technology or social media. It is easy to say that many believe that they can get rich through Instagram or facebook without educating themselves first. According, to, every year as many as 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. “What kind of work they do and how they live and how come we ain’t in on it? - Poor people have to wake up”. This expresses the question on what people should be aware of to fight for better opportunities, using their resources to educate themselves and move forward, only then would there be a chance to reach the pursuit of happiness, democracy. Education does increase income. Workers with less than a high school diploma are the lowest earners on average compared to those who do have a high school diploma they are earning bump up to 5.4%, according to smart asset an article by Amelia Josephson, who holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford, as well as writes on financial literacy topics. This shows how education plays a major role in getting better opportunities from general education or higher. Miss Moore in the story is a perfect example, of what is offered here in the United States which is free education. However, is it up to the youth to learn its value and why education is important.

Finally, the other theme presented in “The Lesson”, is a very interesting one; inner vulnerability. Inner vulnerability means being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, it could be physically or emotionally. “I kinda hang back. Not that I’m scared, what’s there to be afraid of, just a toy store. But I feel funny, shame. But what I got to be ashamed about? Got as much right to go in as anybody.” Sylvia in the short story portrays herself as a sophisticated, smart, strong, unafraid individual. However, that is not the case, she clearly states feeling ashamed and intimidated by the new environment that surrounds her, which is an expensive toy store in a higher up class community. As we all know, human beings like to fit into their environment to not feel out of place, we may feel afraid of what others may say or feel. “Association with vulnerability requires a shift in awareness in order to strengthen your emotional well-being. It is no use erecting barricades around you while hoping at the same time others will see the blossoming flower within. The wall you construct prevents your true nature from being known to others.” This explains that without inner vulnerability, people may not grow emotionally to flourish in their environment for the better. For example, Sylvia’s inner vulnerability did not only teach her a lesson of her surrounding but it also gave her a different perspective. Whatever she may choose to do with what she gained from the lesson is up to her but now she is more aware than before.

What does it take a child to understand the concepts of social inequality and the understanding of poverty? Experience. The importance of education, inner vulnerability, ties back to social inequality and fully understanding poverty among lower-income families by making us aware. These themes are presented In the short story of The Lesson, by Toni Cade Bambara’s, making us aware of topics people may not want to discuss, deal with or may not even know about. It is interesting how all these themes are so closely tied together and how they are still very relevant to this day. 

16 August 2021
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