How is Miss Moore an outsider in her community?

Miss Moore, the black woman in the neighborhood, is different than everyone else and a bit of an outsider because she is educated, not very religious and has money. These characteristics make her different from everyone else and a target of ridicule by Sylvia and other kids on the block.

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In Toni Cade Bambara's short story "The Lesson," the character of Miss Moore has personality traits that the narrator, young Sylvia, thinks are strange and especially out of place in her poor neighborhood. 

Sylvia first announces that of everyone around her, she and her friend Sugar are...

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In Toni Cade Bambara's short story "The Lesson," the character of Miss Moore has personality traits that the narrator, young Sylvia, thinks are strange and especially out of place in her poor neighborhood. 

Sylvia first announces that of everyone around her, she and her friend Sugar are the only ones "just right." Sylvia looks down her nose as Miss Moore, first because of her appearance:

This lady moved onto our block with nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup. And quite naturally we laughed at her . . .

Sylvia hates Miss Moore because she interferes with the children's recreation. She compares the woman with the winos who create difficulty for the kids in playing handball or hide-and-seek.

Miss Moore, Sylvia notes, doesn't fit in for other reasons.

The only woman on the block with no first name. And she was black as hell, cept for her feet, which were fish-white and spooky.

Besides her appearance, Sylvia notes that Miss Moore also disrupts the status quo of the neighborhood and, again, the lives of the kids:

And she was always planning these boring-ass things for us to do . . .

Miss Moore does not go to church, and the adults in the neighborhood make note of this; but while the parents criticize the woman behind her back, Miss Moore goes out of her way to show them kindness by making sachets or baking gingerbread. She obviously wants to make things better for those around her. Miss Moore is college-educated, and she also has money, which Sylvia discovers on the taxi ride.

Perhaps what makes Miss Moore more an outsider than anything else, and certainly the reason Sylvia hates her so very much, is that the woman wants to change the way these youngsters see the world and their place in it—or moreover, what they deserve. This is very different compared to the silence with which the other adults face the terrible truth about social inequality. With the trip to the toy store, Sylvia's eyes are opened to the inequities within society. This awareness is something that robs Sylvia of her innocence and forces her to grow up a bit. It is certain she will never be the same after the experience.

Sylvia will never be able to take the world at face value again, because she is now in possession of a glaring and horrible reality with regard to the very rich and the very poor. And while Sylvia resents Miss Moore for forcing this new knowledge on her, Sylvia's social awakening is not wasted on her. The reader senses that this youngster is now motivated to never allow the world to present her with lesser opportunities than everyone else has and remain silent—even though she will have to fight for what she deserves.

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In Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “The Lesson” Miss Moore is an outsider in her community because she is “different” than most of the other woman. She dresses in her own style, she speaks properly, and is the only “black woman without a first name.” The children call her Miss Moore because she expects it, and they do not know her first name. Most of the adults in their lives are related to them in some way, but she is not. Miss Moore is college educated and exhibits a moral conscientiousness for educating the youth of the neighborhood. The other adults gossip about her but they allow her to take responsibility for the worldly education of their children when they were not in school. She does not go to church but she kindly shares when she bakes or makes something special. In this tight knit African-American community, Miss Moore is an enigma.

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