The central purpose of this tale is one which clearly focuses on the power of education to change the lives of even the most unpromising of individuals and children. The narrator's story of starting teaching in a very challenging school features his gradual acceptance from them, even though he starts off being rejected and challenged at every turn. The narrator himself has to undergo massive challenges as he seeks to gain mastery of the class and their respect. He, gradually and bit by bit, wins this however, and the way that he is able to transform these young people into productive members of society and teach them basic essential skills that are needed for life is very heartwarming and moving.
The central character, Rick, is a black man who starts teaching because he is unable to find any other work, in spite of his high level of qualifications and experience. As a black man he faces certain prejudice from society, and this prejudice extends to the very pupils that he works so hard to teach. His eventual success shows the power inherent in education and how it can be used to change lives.