In "The Lesson," how does Sylvia change as a result of Miss Moore's lesson?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Self-realization is one way Sylvia changes in "The Lesson."

At the start of the story, Sylvia sees herself as part of something larger. This can be seen in her tone in the opening paragraph: she speaks in collective terms.  For example, Sylvia speaks about how she and Sugar view the world in the same way: " and Sugar were the only ones just right." It can also be seen in how they view Miss Moore: "And we kinda hated her too, hated the way we did the winos..." In both settings, Sylvia views the world in a collectivized notion of the good. She sees reality in a "We" type of way.

By the end of the story, Sylvia changes to a more self- interested point of view. The last words of the story reflect individualist language that Sylvia did not initially demonstrate:  "But ain't nobody gonna beat me at nuthin."  When Sylvia breaks away from Sugar to "think about the day," it is clear that she has become more individualistic. She is not as collective in her language and demeanor.  

The change in language and approach is reflective of Sylvia's self-realization. She has become more aware of the world and her place in it. In some respects, Sylvia has emerged from a cave and into a new world.  It is a world where questions abound. For example, she is not clear as to why she is angry at what she experienced. She has to "think" about what happened, away from other people. The epiphany that  emerges  at the end of the story is vague, but also reflective of a core value. These are examples of the self-realization that Sylvia has experienced.  They go to show how she has changed as a result of Miss Moore's lesson.