The Lesson Questions and Answers
by Toni Cade Bambara

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At the end of Bambara's "The Lesson," Sugar states that she has learned a lesson. How does the sad look that Miss Moore gives Sylvia in that paragraph suggest that there is more to the lesson?

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At the end of Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson," Sylvia's friend Sugar voices what she has learned, much to Sylvia's disgust, and Miss Moore seems sad. Sylvia will control what she thinks and will not give anyone the satisfaction of knowing they have taught her anything...she resists letting Miss Moore drag her into the "lesson" she is trying to teach the youngsters on this "field trip."

"I think," say Sugar..."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 looks at me, sorrowfully I'm thinkin. And somethin weird is going on, I can feel it in my chest.

Sylvia is a smart kid and...

...has the capacity to see the truth in things.

There truth is that the rich have so much that they can waste money on toys, when her family struggles to get by. Miss Moore realizes that something is going on in Sylvia's head:

You sound angry, Sylvia. Are you mad about something?

Miss Moore is right: Sylvia is mad about the inequity that Sugar expresses at the end. She thinks:

I'm mad, but I won't give [Miss Moore] that satisfaction.

Although Sylvia does not let Miss Moore know that the lesson was a success, the reader understands that Sylvia recognizes the inequity between her world and that of the wealthy—people that can afford a sailboat costing over a thousand dollars. We do not get the sense that she can act at that moment, but that she will not forget as she gets older and begins to navigate her way through a generation that will ultimately say, "Enough!" with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

[Sugar] can run if she want to and even faster. But ain't nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.

Sylvia understands how far-reaching the lesson is, though Sugar does not. Sylvia knows that the cost of toys demonstrates how democracy isn't working. However, Sylvia realizes that it's not enough to know about how unfair things are, but to do something about it. We can infer that Sylvia will do so as she gets older.

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