In "The Lesson", what is the relationship between Sylvia and her cousin, Sugar?

Expert Answers

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

Sylvia and Sugar are cousins "who lived on the block cause we all moved North the same time and to the same apartment then spread out gradual to breathe." They seem to be about the same age, and they share everything, in terms of experiences.  They make fun of the same people, are angry at the same people, and are together forced to go on little trips with Miss Moore. Sugar and Sylvia loathe these little trips, but the last trip they go on to F.A.O. Schwarz in New York City changes their relationship.  These trips are meant to teach the children something about themselves and society, but Sylvia is determined to remain faithful to her own thoughts about life and the way she lives.  However, when visiting the famous toy store, all of the children are intimidated by the toys and how much they costs because these children live in poverty.  At the end of the story, when Miss Moore is asking the children about their trip, Sugar betrays Sylvia by showing that she did gain a greater understanding of how the world works.  By looking at a toy boat that costs $1,195, a boat that is just meant to sail on a pond, Sugar understands that some people have the money to buy their children that boat, whereas her family can only afford boats that cost a dollar and fall about on the first sail.  She learns that American life is not as equal as society would profess.  This realization irritates Sylvia.  She states at the end of the story, "She can run if she want to and even run faster. But ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin." Sylvia feels that if she gives in to the lessons that Miss Moore is teaching, she will be beaten at the game of life. She is bound and determined to stay the way she is because her life proceeds on her own terms.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sugar is Sylvia's closest friend and her cohort. Despite the friendship, Sylvia feels an element of competition with Sugar. When Sugar gets up the nerve to touch the $1,000-dollar sailboat, Sylvia is so jealous that she wants to hit her friend.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial