Why did Bambara tell the story from Sylvia’s perspective and not from Miss Moore’s perspective or an omniscient—all seeing/removed from the story—narrator?

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Over the course of the story, the source of Sylvia's antagonism shifts. Initially, Ms. Moore, with her "nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup" is hated by Sylvia and her friend, Sugar. They hate her, Sylvia says, the way that they "did the winos who cluttered up [their] parks."...

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Over the course of the story, the source of Sylvia's antagonism shifts. Initially, Ms. Moore, with her "nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup" is hated by Sylvia and her friend, Sugar. They hate her, Sylvia says, the way that they "did the winos who cluttered up [their] parks." Ms. Moore enters their space in a way that they find disagreeable and against the norms of their community, due to her embrace of a natural hairstyle, her higher level of education, and her dismissal of traditional femininity. Furthermore, Ms. Moore is a dark-skinned black woman ("black as hell") with no shame around her appearance.

Like a lot of adolescents, regardless of background, the narrator thinks that she knows more than those both younger and older than she, assuming that her community and its rules are applicable everywhere. Her exposure to economic and racial inequality shift her focus away from Ms. Moore, specifically, and toward the circumstances to which she has exposed the children. However, Sylvia, unlike Sugar, is ill-equipped to articulate the real problems and cannot admit her powerlessness against the source, so she remains angry with Ms. Moore and races against Sugar, determined with the thought, "[N]obody gonna beat me at nuthin."

It would make less sense to tell the story from Ms. Moore's perspective because it would diminish the impact of the character's epiphany on the reader. Bambara sets up the world through Sylvia's eyes, which are limited by youth and class. A third-person omniscient narrator would interfere and know too much. This is, after all, a story about the things a young girl does not yet know about the world.

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The first person point of view is powerful in that it draws the reader into a more intimate understanding of the character.  In "The Lesson" Sylvia, the narrator, comes to understand the hard lesson of economic inequality and exists in her inner city world.   It is important that Sylvia, rather than Ms. Moore, be the narrator for this story for a couple of key reasons.

First, Sylvia is an apt narrator because she is a representative of her community and of the age group that the lesson is appropriate for.  Ms. Moore, even though she is also African-American, is viewed more as an outsider because of the way she talks and dresses.  Sylvia can provide the reader with more detailed knowledge of the other children as well.  In this way, the reader comes to know the diverse group of children in their own environment and to understand the way they view the odd world of grown-ups. As a grown-up, Ms. Moore cannot provide this perspective.

Second, this story is about the realization, an experience that the reader gets to feel along with Sylvia.  Unlike many of the other children, Sylvia comes to understand the lesson and is angry at the implications.  In this way, the reader, too, can become angry and empathize with these children raised in poverty.  Ms. Moore, who is teaching the lesson, cannot provide this moment of realization, as she is aware of the inequity among the social classes.

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