How do Sylvia and Miss Moore compare and contrast, in the story "The Lesson" written by Toni Cade Bambara?

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story "The Lesson" written by American writer Toni Cade Bambara, Sylvia and Miss Moore compare in that both dress nicely when Miss Moore takes the neighborhood children out on an excursion. Miss Moore always dresses nice; Sylvia dresses nice because her parent’s make sure she looks respectable for her meetings with Miss Moore.

Sylvia and Miss Moore also compare in that both do have strong personalities in their own way. Miss Moore is more forthright in what she does. She plans, announces, and dictates to the children what an excursion will entail and when it will be. Sylvia’s personality is strong when it comes to her opinions of others, especially Miss Moore in this story.

However, she mutes her strong opinion sometimes so as to not rock the boat with Miss Moore. Nonetheless, Sylvia has a dynamic personality as evidenced by her stepping on the toes of Sugar to keep her quiet so she doesn’t get into too deep of a conversation with Miss Moore. As well, Miss Moore’s dynamic personality is in her ardour to educate and present new experiences to the children.

In “The Lesson”, Sylvia and Miss Moore contrast in that only one of these two uses a first name. Miss Moore’s first name is never known in this story in contrast to Sylvia’s name. In addition, Miss Moore is presented as prim and proper, with ‘nappy hair and proper speech.’ This is in direct contrast to Sylvia who speaks a slangy dialect. Furthermore, it is apparent that Miss Moore wears no makeup, while Sylvia and her cousin Sugar slap on lipstick for forays into town.

Sylvia hates Miss Moore’s college degree. The contrast here is that Miss Moore cherishes her college degree.  She feels it is her duty to teach and educate Sylvia and her cousin to give them a better chance at success in the future. Moreover, there is contrast in that Sylvia has trouble with math and can’t ascertain what the tip should be to the cab driver, while Miss Moore is adept at math and seeks to educate Sylvia and others in this discipline. Also, Sylvia never really talks directly to Miss Moore, who in contrast always speaks directly to Sylvia and the others, for example concerning their experience at the F.A.O. Schwarz store.

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