The Lesson | Study Guide

Toni Cade Bambara

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Course Hero. "The Lesson Study Guide." August 16, 2019. Accessed September 20, 2020.


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Toni Cade Bambara

Year Published



Short Story



Perspective and Narrator

The story "The Lesson" is told in first person from the perspective of the character Sylvia, a rebellious young girl from a poor neighborhood in New York. The narration is deeply embedded in her oppositional perspective. It utilizes the grammar and vocabulary of her African American dialect both for authenticity and to contrast Sylvia with her antagonist, Miss Moore.


"The Lesson" begins with a paragraph written mostly in the past tense, which introduces the general situation of Miss Moore's lessons. Afterward the story switches to mostly present tense to describe the events of the specific lesson Miss Moore is teaching on the day the story takes place.

About the Title

The title "The Lesson" refers to not only the real-world math problems Miss Moore poses to the children during their outing, but also to the social critique Miss Moore is trying to convey to the children by showing them toys their families could never afford. She wants them to understand there is something fundamentally rotten about American capitalism and that the children should demand more and try to change the system. Miss Moore often takes the children on educational outings, many of which seem to have similar themes. This one in particular has made an impression on the narrator.


This study guide for Toni Cade Bambara's The Lesson offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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