How is social injustice demonstrated in "The Lesson"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Miss Moore takes the children to a famously expensive and extravagant toy store called F.A.O. Schwartz in order to demonstrate the social inequality that exists in the United States.

These children are black and live in a poor neighborhood, and Miss Moore wants to teach them lessons about money: who...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Miss Moore takes the children to a famously expensive and extravagant toy store called F.A.O. Schwartz in order to demonstrate the social inequality that exists in the United States.

These children are black and live in a poor neighborhood, and Miss Moore wants to teach them lessons about money: who has it, who doesn't, and what that means for them. Sylvia, the narrator, says that Miss Moore is "boring [them] 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." Sylvia thinks these subjects are silly—until she sees a toy sailboat that costs more than a thousand dollars and a clown doll that costs more than thirty dollars. The children enter the store feeling embarrassed and ashamed, though they aren't really sure why; Sylvia feels she's "Got as much right to go in as anybody." But "people lookin at [them]." As a result of their observations, Sugar realizes that the money for the one toy sailboat could feed everyone present for an entire year, and "Miss Moore lights up like somebody goosed her."

Miss Moore clearly wants the kids to understand that this is currently how society is: some people can afford tremendous extravagances and luxuries while others can barely afford the cost of living. Sugar concludes that this society "is not much of a democracy. ... Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough." Miss Moore is so pleased with Sugar's observations because it shows that her demonstration of social injustice has hit home. Although Sylvia does not have the same conscious thoughts, her anger—which Miss Moore notices—and her desire to "think this day through" show that she has also imbibed the lesson.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team