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

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bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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.

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bbtrees eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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.

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