In Toni Cade Bambara’s story “The Lesson” Sylvia has a thought provoking experience when she visits the F.A.O. Schwartz toy store with Miss Morris and a group of adolescents from her Harlem neighborhood. Sylvia is amazed at the prices of the toys in the store, and even more amazed that people can afford to purchase them. She focuses on a toy clown costing $35. In her mind, she thinks of all the things her family can puchase with that amount of money such as beds for twin boys, or a car trip for the whole family. It dawns on her that there is a double standard when it comes to monetary success. She wonders who can afford to spend that amount of money on a toy, and what they do to make expendable money.
Thirty-five dollars would pay for the rent and the piano bill too. Who are these people that spend that much for performing clowns and $1000 for toy sailboats? What kinda work they do and how they live and how come we ain't in on it? Where we are is who we are, Miss Moore always pointin out.
When the group returns to the neighborhood, Miss Morris engages the children in a conversation about the day. Sylvia’s friend Sugar is vocal about her feelings, which excites Miss Morris and angers Sylvia, who wants to escape to think about the day by herself.
"I think," say Sugar pushing me off her feet like she never done before cause I whip her ass in a minute, "that this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don't it?" Miss Moore is besides herself and I am disgusted with Sugar's treachery.
While Sugar runs ahead to the ice cream store, Sylvia lags behind, vowing to prosper. Sylvia never states exactly what she will do but she does make it clear that she is determined.
We start down the block and she gets ahead which is O.K. by me cause I'm going to the West End and then over to the Drive to think this day through. She can run if she want to and even run faster. But ain't nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.