In Toni Cade Bambara's short story "The Lesson," for which two children does Miss Moore overcome the distance and teach her lesson?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Toni Cade Bambara's short story "The Lesson," there are two children for which Miss Moore overcomes the distance and teaches her lesson.

Miss Moore tries to teach the neighborhood children about the world. The reader gets the sense that she is attempting to educate them with regard to the imbalance in society that allows the very rich to survive at a level that seems always out of reach for those who are poor, most especially the children of color with whom she is working. In this lesson, she has taken them to F.A.O. Swartz, a famous and very upscale toy store in the city.

When they return home, Miss Moore investigates to find what—if any—important observations the children may have made on this particular trip. Sylvia (the narrator) is an ornery child. She has little regard for Miss Moore and seems suspicious of the woman’s intensions. She will never willingly offer anything to satisfy Miss Moore, but Sylvia’s friend Sugar has something to share.

Then Sugar surprises me by sayin, "You know, Miss Moore, I don't think all of us here put together eat in a year what that sailboat costs." And Miss Moore lights up like somebody goosed her.

Miss Moore is indeed pleased by this response and tries to get Sugar to expound on her statement. In an effort to silence her, Sylvia stands on Sugar's foot. Interestingly, Sugar is not to be stopped:

"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. 

For Miss Moore, this lesson has been a successful one. Then Miss Moore turns her attention to Sylvia, looking straight at her when she asks if anyone else learned anything. Miss Moore seems intelligent enough to conclude that while Sylvia has nothing to share, the point of the visit has not been wasted on her.

Sylvia refuses to say anything; when she walks away, Sugar follows. The reader, however, may recall that earlier Sylvia had commented that something weird was going on. The girls leave and use the change Sylvia received from the cab fare to get something to eat. The reader understands, as Sylvia muses to herself, that Sylvia did, in fact, learn something important that day. She notes…

...ain't nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.

Both Sugar and Sylvia learn something important from Miss Moore’s lesson.

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