In regards to "The Lesson," explain what Ms. Moore means by saying "where we are is who we are."

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In addition to meaning that the specific circumstances of one’s socioeconomic status are the “where,” Miss Moore’s quote also suggests a psychological place.

While it is true that Sylvia and the other children are seemingly trapped in the circumstances of their impoverished upbringing, they are also limited in their understanding...

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In addition to meaning that the specific circumstances of one’s socioeconomic status are the “where,” Miss Moore’s quote also suggests a psychological place.

While it is true that Sylvia and the other children are seemingly trapped in the circumstances of their impoverished upbringing, they are also limited in their understanding of why the world is the way it is. Miss Moore attempts to broaden the children’s horizons by demonstrating life lessons. The trip to the toy store is meant to underscore how drastically one’s socioeconomic status can impact one’s view of money and what is reasonable.

Sugar and, later, Sylvia are both disturbed that anyone would spend so much money on an unnecessary item, because it is not something they have ever seen occur within their neighborhoods. More than that, Sylvia comes to understand the unfairness of this drastic difference in financial worldview.

Miss Moore’s words serve as a reminder that if one does not open his or her eyes to the realities outside his or her own bubble, then he or she will be destined to remain inert. Her desire is for the students to change not only their circumstances, but also the systemic inequalities that created those circumstances.

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In my opinion, what Ms. Moore means is that people's lives and personalities are totally shaped by the circumstances and surroundings in which they live.

We can see that in how the kids behave in this story.  Because they are all relatively poor, their outlooks on life are very different than those of the people who can actually shop at FAO Schwartz.  The kids only know poverty.

This is something that Ms. Moore is trying to fight against.  She wants the kids to see that where they are should not be permanent and that they should fight what she sees as injustice.

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