What is the theme in the story "The War of the Wall"?

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The short story "The War of the Wall," by Toni Cade Bambara , tells of two schoolchildren, the narrator and his cousin Lou, who object to a painter composing a picture on a wall in their neighborhood. The wall holds special significance for them, especially because they have...

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The short story "The War of the Wall," by Toni Cade Bambara, tells of two schoolchildren, the narrator and his cousin Lou, who object to a painter composing a picture on a wall in their neighborhood. The wall holds special significance for them, especially because they have chiseled the name of their friend Jimmy Lyons, who died in Vietnam, on it. The woman ignores them and continues her work. She is single-minded at her task and doesn't take much notice of anyone else around.

While on a weekend at the country, Lou and the narrator come up with the idea of covering the painter's wall picture with spray paint, just as they've seen graffiti artists do on TV. When they return to town, they spend their entire allowance on spray paint. However, when they get to the wall, they realize that the painter has created an amazing mural of African American empowerment, and she has done it in memory of her cousin Jimmy Lyons.

The main theme of this story has to do with the tendency of people to misjudge things that they don't understand. It could also be expressed as the importance of not jumping to conclusions too quickly or not making assumptions when you don't have all the facts. The two children could have avoided all the confusion, misunderstandings, and bad feelings if they would have simply asked the artist what she was painting. Instead, they automatically assume that she is doing something wrong, that she is invading their territory, and that they won't like the end result of her efforts.

The beauty and appropriateness of the artist's work when it is completed highlights to the children and everyone else in the neighborhood the importance of being slow to judge what you don't understand and not relying on your first (and often erroneous) impressions of a situation.

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