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Toni Cade Bambara's short story "The Lesson" follows the story of Sylvia, a black girl growing up in a particularly impoverished part of Harlem in the early 1970s. In order to educate the children about the world beyond their poor neighborhood and the disparity of wealth distribution, Miss Moore takes them on a field trip to the FAO Schwartz Toy Store in Manhattan. The children are shocked by how expensive the toys are, many of which cost more than the annual salaries earned by their parents.
Thus, Miss Moore attempts to get across her lesson: that the American economic system is inherently faulty, racially biased, and privileges some people (namely white folks who already have access to money, education, jobs, etc.) over others.
Miss Moore wants to teach the children that there is "more" in life that what their ghetto neighborhood offers. In showing them there is "more," she hopes they will reach for "more." However, when the narrator says at the end "There ain't nobody gonna beat me at nuthin," we are not sure if she has learned the lesson or not for throughout their trip to the city she resists what Miss Moore has to say because she doesn't want to appear stupid--she wants to be a tough know-it-all. Miss Moore is concerned that such an attitude might limit the child rather than expand her possibilities in life.
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