In “The Lesson,” why does Bambara make the connection between FAO Schwartz and a church in terms of how the girls feel when they enter?

In The Lesson, one could argue that Bambara makes the connection between FAO Schwarz and a church in terms of how the girls feel when they enter in order to highlight the sense of reverence they feel at being in such an unusual environment.

Expert Answers

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One might have thought that the schoolgirls in “The Lesson” would be pretty excited to set foot inside a toy store. And not just any toy store at that but arguably the most famous toy store in the world.

And yet the girls are anything but excited. In fact, they find themselves walking around on tiptoe, seemingly afraid to touch any of the items on display. In fact, Sylvia and her friend Sugar can only stare in amazement at the hefty price tags attaching to the toys, such as a whopping $35 for a clown that does somersaults or an astronomical $1,000 for a toy sailboat.

The girls aren't excited, because they don't feel that they belong here. They know that there's no way in a million years that their parents would ever be able to shop here. So instead of FAO Schwarz being a place of fun, it's more like a church with its air of solemn reverence for those, like the girls, unable to afford any of the items on display.

It all reminds Sylvia of the time when she and Sugar planned to go into a Catholic church and have some fun by splashing the holy water and tap dancing on the altar. Once they'd got inside the church, everything was so “hushed and holy” that they didn't feel able to go through with the plan.

The atmosphere inside the toy store is pretty much the same. Sylvia, Sugar, and the other girls can't really enjoy themselves, feeling as if they don't belong in this environment.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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