What are the differences and similarities between "The Lesson" and "Raymond's Run"? How are the main character different/similar?

The author, Toni Cade Bambara, writes “The Lesson” to show the lesson that we should treat others the way they want to be treated. The story is about a girl named Sylvia who is living with her family in a poor part of town. She was having trouble getting around because it was dark and she did not know where she was going. She decided to ask for help from a taxi driver. Sylvia asks the taxi driver if he could drive her home but instead of driving her home he takes her to an apartment complex where he tells her that he would like to take her inside but it isn’t proper. Sylvia takes the money and runs off.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are several important similarities between the protagonists of the two stories by Toni Cade Bambara. Sylvia in “The Lesson ” and Hazel or Squeaky in “Raymond’s Run” are both African American girls. Through the course of the stories, both girls have experiences that include anti-social behaviors they...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

There are several important similarities between the protagonists of the two stories by Toni Cade Bambara. Sylvia in “The Lesson” and Hazel or Squeaky in “Raymond’s Run” are both African American girls. Through the course of the stories, both girls have experiences that include anti-social behaviors they later re-evaluate. Sylvia disobeys Miss Moore’s instructions while taking the taxi and takes money that was intended for the driver. Squeaky’s obsession with her own winning makes her an unsportsmanlike competitor.

One main difference between the two stories is that the author leaves Sylvia at a point of contemplating future choices without yet making any decisions, while Bambara shows Squeaky as having decided to do specific things with and for her brother. A related distinction is that Sylvia is presented as operating independently from her siblings and to some extent from her friends, while Squeaky is involved with and grows closer to Raymond and determines to collaborate with Gretchen.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sylvia, the narrator of "The Lesson", is a young, proud, sensitive, and smart girl who learns a "lesson" about the differences between the rich and the poor and between white Americans and African Americans. The trip to F.A.O. Schwarz opens her eyes to the great economic disparity between the races. After she gets back to her neighborhood, Sylvia needs to be alone to think about what it all means. The reader is left with the sense that Sylvia will be an adult much like Miss Moore, resisting racism and inequities between the races and trying to bring about change through her actions.

Hazel, the narrator of "Raymond's Run", is also a young girl on the verge of adolescence. She's aggressive, athletic, loyal to and defensive of her brother, and her whole family. She's self-confident, compassionate, and strong, insisting that people treat her and her brother with respect. Hazel has a supportive family in both her parents who encourage her in her determination to make something of herself.

Both girls speak in the everyday language of their community, and they experience a kind of epiphany (insight) that changes their lives. Sylvia's life changes from her trip to the toy store, and Hazel is changed when she realizes Raymond also has the potential to be more than Hazel thought he could be. They are also strong characters who won't accept the status quo and will always fight to make things better.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team