The Lesson Narration & POV Essay
The Lesson Narration & POV Essay
Though The Lesson, by Toni Cade Bambara, is quite short in terms of length, it more than makes up for the lack of text with numerous important lessons and detailed characters. Miss Moore is perhaps the most important of these characters, as she drives the conflict and lessons that the reader can observe throughout the story. Miss Moore’s education makes her the exemplary teacher that she is. She wants to teach the children about the injustices in the world, but instead of lecturing them about said injustices, Miss Moore instead asks leading questions to get the children to reach conclusions on their own. This technique of education is known as the Socratic method, which Miss Moore uses to keep the children engaged, while at the same time being able to teach them about inequality, which is a difficult concept for children Sylvia’s age to understand.
This process is on clear display during the trip to the F.A.O Schwarz toy store. Miss Moore doesn’t bring the children to the store to buy them toys, but rather to let them see firsthand the vast inequalities that exist within our society. For example, Sylvia, the narrator of The Lesson, asks Miss Moore “‘Who’d pay all that when you can buy a sailboat set for a quarter at Pop’s, a tube of glue for a dime, and a ball of string for eight cents? ‘It must have a motor and a whole lot else besides,’ I say. ‘My sailboat cost me about fifty cents’” (27). Sylvia is rightly confused on how anyone could possibly spend so much money on something so meaningless, while people like her and her family struggle to live with far less. She continues later on when the group is on the train. Sylvia reiterates her previous statements, thinking to herself “Thirty-five dollars could buy new bunk beds for Junior and Gretchen’s boy. Thirty-five dollars and the whole household could go visit Granddaddy Nelson in the country. Thirty-five dollars would pay for the rent and the piano bill too. Who are these people that spend that much for performing clowns and $1,000 for toy sailboats?” (44). The fact that this story is told from Sylvia’s point of view severely affects how the reader understands Miss Moore and her motivations. Sylvia narrates this story describing her thoughts and feelings from her childhood, but she is telling the reader how the events unfolded after the fact, when she is an adult. As a result of this point of view, the reader gets an accurate but heavily biased account of what happened.
While changing the point of view of the F.A.O. Schwarz toy store scene gives the reader valuable insight into Miss Moore’s thoughts, this alteration also removes many unique aspects of having Sylvia as the narrator. The biggest contrast between the two perspectives are the different stages of life that the narrators tell the story from. Sylvia is a young, uneducated, immature child, while Miss Moore is an older, more mature adult with a job and an education. Sylvia informs the reader of Miss Moore’s background, specifically her education, when she says “She’d been to college and said it was only right that she should take responsibility for the young ones’ education” (1.) Sylvia continues later on, saying “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” (3). This small piece of text reveals quite a bit about Miss Moore, as well as Sylvia. We can observe Sylvia’s apparent lack of interest in topics that she deems silly, as well as a confirmation of Miss Moore’s previous education.
Later on, Miss Moore manages to capture Sylvia's interest in the subject under the premise of the cost of toys. With this change in narration the story loses a certain level of innocence. As a child, Sylvia isn’t worried about all of the problems and injustices in the world, but instead she is focused solely on living and enjoying life. This innocence makes the story more upbeat and joyful as opposed to from Miss Moore’s point of view, as she is focused on making the children realize all of the terrible things that exist in the world. Having an adult as narrator certainly comes with upsides, including a more formal and serious style, as well as perhaps a less emotionally influenced account of the events that transpired. With Sylvia recounting this memory, the reader gets a more vibrant, colorful, and relaxed version of the story. In general, if Sylvia is removed as the narrator, the story loses a level of innocence and intrigue that comes with a child’s narrative. Overall though, a story with both points of view is beneficial to the story, as the text becomes more interesting with Syliva’s point of view, and also likely becomes more accurate and informative if the story is told from Miss Moore’s perspective.