In 1972, Toni Cade Bambara wrote the short story, “The Lesson.”
It details the life and
times of a group of kids from the point of view of Sylvia, the main character.
When a woman
named Miss Moore first moves in, all are skeptical of her demeanor and of her way of thinking.
Miss Moore takes the group on a taxi ride to a toy store called F.A.0. Schwarz and what
immediately catches most of the kids’ eyes is a sailboat that costs $1,195.
Puzzled by the high
price of the toy, Sylvia and her buddies walk into the store to look for other toys, and also find a
dancing clown, which costs $35.
Immediately, the group wonders why most people even spend
so much on toys, when they reminisce on other things in their respective lives that the money
could go towards in a more meaningful way, such as rent, bunk beds, bills, and visits to relatives
On the way home, one of the kids, Sugar, finally recognizes the lesson of the trip
to the toy store, and in her words, says, “I think that this is not much of a democracy if you ask
me.” (5) She speculates on an unequal distribution of wealth, or in her words, “‘Equal chance to
pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don’t [sic] it?” (5)