Student Question

What makes Sylvia credible in "The Lesson"?

Quick answer:

In "The Lesson," Sylvia is a credible character because the author gives her realistic attributes for a girl her age, including curiosity and skepticism. She also has a slightly rebellious attitude. Her personality and behavior include contradictory elements, such as being a member of a close group of friends and being competitive with other members of the group.

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Sylvia, who is the first-person narrator of “The Lesson,” emerges as a credible character because author Toni Cade Bambara gives the girl a number of attributes that the reader might expect to encounter in a child her age. Sylvia is highly curious about the world around her, including the new environment into which they venture on the field trip. However, she does not accept everything at face value: she adopts a skeptical stance toward the information that Miss Moore provides and in analyzing things she personally observes.

Sylvia’s curiosity extends to Miss Moore’s motivations for working with the children, and she considers this young woman an authority figure. Her rebellious attitude toward authority extends to her refusal to follow all of Miss Moore’s instructions. This resistance is shown by Sylvia’s retaining part of the cab fare that was entrusted to her.

Sylvia is clearly a member of a group of neighborhood friends that includes Sugar and Flyboy. Sylvia is more of a leader than a follower. Her skeptical attitude extends to wanting to work out ideas for herself rather than agree with the other children or with adults. Near the story’s end, she is shown as critical of Sugar for her constant habit of telling adults what they want to hear.

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