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Character Analysis

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In the story The Lesson the narrator is Silvia, a young black girl and she tells the story of a lesson in life she was taught by Ms. Moore, who is a neighbor and an educated black woman: “ She’d been to college and said it was only right that she should take responsibility for the young ones’ education…” (629).  In the beginning Silvia is skeptical and so are her friends about the whole outing and would much rather be out playing with their friends:  “ I’m really hating this nappy-head bitch and her goddamn college degree.  I’d much rather go to the pool or to the show where it’s cool.” (629).

          As Silvia goes on in the story Ms. Moore is boring them to death with her lectures and mind-numbing discussion “ …it’s puredee hot and she’s knockin herself out about arithmetic.  And school supposed to let up in the summer I heard, but she don’t never let up.” (629).  But at the same time she shows them things they were not aware of and opens their eyes to the real world:

So we heading down the street and she’s boring us silly about what things cost and what our parents make and how much goes for rent and how money ain’t divided up right in this country.  And then she gets to the part about we all poor and live in the slums, which I don’t feature.

When they reach their destination they arrive on Fifth Avenue, which is the predominantly white area of town.  Ms. Moore then takes Silvia and company to the toy store and points out some of the prices on the toys.  When the friends see the astronomical prices set in the store it makes Silvia realize social class differences for the firs time: “ Who are these people that spend that much for performing clowns and $1000 for toy sailboats?  What kinda work they do and how they live and how come we ain’t in on it?” (633).  At the end of the story Silvia and her friends have recognize that the better things in life are not given to you especially if you are black and you have to go out and better yourself to get it:  

Where are is who we are, Miss Moore always pointing out.  But it don’t necessarily have to be that way, she always adds then waits for somebody to say poor people have to wake up and demand their share of the pie…

          Silvia and her friends also see that everyone do not live in the same conditions and while some are spending a thousand dollars on a toy others are living in poverty.  In the end it changes Silvia even if just enough to show her that she needs to have goals: “She can run if she want and even run faster.  But ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin” (634). By the end of the story Silvia makes a significant change in her attitude about life and was motivated and encouraged to go out a improve herself and ensure her family’s stability.

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