Who is the protagonist of "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara? Is this person static or dynamic?

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teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The narrator and protagonist of Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “The Lesson” is a young girl named Sylvia (Miss Moore addresses Sylvia by name in dialogue near the end of the story).  Sylvia may be considered a dynamic character because she evolves over the course of the story.  At the beginning, Sylvia and her friends do not understand why Miss Moore takes them to expensive shops in New York City.  However, after some discussion, the children begin to realize lessons dealing with socioeconomic class, and they become critical of their society.  At the very end of the story, Sylvia says, “But ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin,’ to suggest that she does not intend to let anyone look down on her because she and her family do not have a wealthy lifestyle.

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poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The protagonist of Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson" is Sylvia, a preadolescent black girl living in poverty in New York City. As a way of coping with the world around her and her troubled environment, Sylvia has shaped herself into a know-it-all who resists the influence of Miss Moore, a black woman who attempts to teach the local children about the unequal distribution of wealth and the life that exists outside their impoverished neighborhood. 

Sylvia is a dynamic character because she experiences a profound intellectual and emotional change over the course of her field trip with Miss Moore (despite her initial resistance). Miss Moore's trip to the toy store inspires anger in Sylvia as she considers her sudden insight into her own economic circumstances as compared to the wealth of others; rather than spending the extra money from her cab fare on sweets, she chooses to set off alone, determined to think about the events of the day. 

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