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.