In "The Lesson," with which character in the story do you most empathize? Why?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character that I empathise with most is Sylvia, the narrator. This is because what the reader witnesses in this story is her growing awareness of the massive forces of inequality that are ranged against her in life. The lesson that Miss Moore teaches the children is one that Sylvia finds herself growing angry about, even though she doesn't necessarily understand why that is. It is clear, however, that she takes the lesson to heart, as is shown by the way that she contemplates the $35 price tag on a clown and thinks of all the things that this money could be used for by her family. Yet at the same time, it is clear that this trip to the store leaves Sylvia feeling confused, angry and somewhat helpless, as the following quote suggests:

Where we are is who we are, Miss Moore always pointin out. But it don't necessarily have to be that way, she always adds then waits for somebody to say that poor people have to wake up and demand their share of the pie and don't none of us know what kind of pie she talking about in the first damn place.

Sylvia certainly is aware of the massive inequality in society and that she suffers from, but at the same time the way she determines at the end of the story to go away and think through the "lesson" she has learned on this day suggests that she is unclear about what to do about her feelings of anger at her lot in life, and her uncertainty about the "pie" that Miss Moore refers to indicates that she is unclear how to proceed. Having been shown the bigger picture of the inequality in society, she is left feeling impotent and helpless in the wake of such a disparity between the "haves" and those, like her, who are the "have-nots." This is why Sylvia is most deserving of the reader's sympathy and why I feel I can empathise more with her situation.

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The Lesson

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