Toni Cade Bambara’s short story ‘The Lesson’ is a very unusual story because of the rare way it is narrated and the abnormal behavior of the protagonist towards some conflicts. In most of the short stories the protagonists usually knows how to handle their struggles. However, Sylvia -the narrator and protagonist of ‘The Lesson’- does not manage quite well her conflicts because of herimmatureness and insecurity. Therefore, I am disappointed of the way Sylvia handles her struggles towards her teacher Miss Moore, her circumstances and herself.
I consider that Sylvia acts really immature when it comes to Miss Moore. I comprehend that it was summer vacation and Sylvia and her friends were upset because instead of having fun at the beach and ‘hanging around’ they still had tokeep learning with Miss Moore (I personally would not like it either). However, Sylvia gets out of hand calling Miss Moore names such as ‘nappy head bitch’, ‘stupid’ and ‘old’. Sylvia also refers to her in a mockingly way- “[…] And quite naturally we laughed at her […]. And she was black as hell, except for her feet, which were fish-white and spooky […]”, Sylvia says describing Miss Moore at thebeginning of the story. I honestly did not like Sylvia’s conduct towards Miss Moore because I believe teachers should be treated with respect, which is what Sylvia lacks the most towards Miss Moore. We can see these kind of behaviors when teachers give their students assignments, trying to help them raise their grades but the students do not appreciate the help because they think that the teachers doit to make them suffer and so, the students start to disrespect their teachers cursing and calling them names.
Another conflict that the narrator faces is her circumstances. Sylvia is poor so, she resides in the slums -which is a poor, densely populated urban area just like La perla in San Juan, Puerto Rico- and lacks an education. When Miss Moore takes Sylvia and the rest of the class to FifthAvenue -an area populated by wealthy people just like Condado in San Juan, Puerto Rico-, Sylvia feels disturbed and insecure. First, Sylvia did not give the ten percent tip to the taxi driver as she was told by Miss Moore when they arrived to Fifth Avenue - “[…] Then the driver tells us to get the hell out cause we there already. And the meter reads eighty- five cents. And I’m stalling to figureout the tip and Sugar say give him a dime. And I decide he don’t need it bad as I do, so later for him […]”. In this quote Sylvia admits that she needs more the money than the taxi driver, so she refuses to give him a dime. Moreover, when Sylvia is around such wealth - at the expensive toy store surrounded by rich people (“white folks crazy”)- she demonstrates her insecurity and denial that shedeals inside of her, although she does not admit it-“[…] So me and Sugar turn the corner to where the entrance is (toy store), but when we get there 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 […]”. We can associate Sylvia’s behavior with the people that offer services and price them based on the income of their customers instead ofthe fair value of the service. For example a plumber might charge thirty dollars to install a faucet to a low income customer and then charge sixty dollars for the same service to a high income customer. He does this because he believes that wealthy people have better finances and should be charged more than poor people. This demonstrates how some people misbehave when they have an inner conflictwith people that belong to a higher social class than them.
The first two conflicts mentioned before relates to the third conflict that Sylvia confronts in the story, best known as man vs. herself. While reading the story I noticed that Sylvia has some serious difficulties with herself even though, she does not admit it. I assume that she have this kind of struggle because in the whole story...