What are the similarities and differences between the main characters in "The Lesson" and "Raymond's Run"?

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The author, Toni Cade Bambara, writes “The Lesson” to show the lesson that we should treat others the way they want to be treated. The story is about a girl named Sylvia who is living with her family in a poor part of town. She was having trouble getting around because it was dark and she did not know where she was going. She decided to ask for help from a taxi driver. Sylvia asks the taxi driver if he could drive her home but instead of driving her home he takes her to an apartment complex where he tells her that he would like to take her inside but it isn’t proper. Sylvia takes the money and runs off.

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There are several important similarities between the protagonists of the two stories by Toni Cade Bambara. Sylvia in “The Lesson” and Hazel or Squeaky in “Raymond’s Run” are both African American girls. Through the course of the stories, both girls have experiences that include anti-social behaviors they later re-evaluate. Sylvia disobeys Miss Moore’s instructions while taking the taxi and takes money that was intended for the driver. Squeaky’s obsession with her own winning makes her an unsportsmanlike competitor.

One main difference between the two stories is that the author leaves Sylvia at a point of contemplating future choices without yet making any decisions, while Bambara shows Squeaky as having decided to do specific things with and for her brother. A related distinction is that Sylvia is presented as operating independently from her siblings and to some extent from her friends, while Squeaky is involved with and grows closer to Raymond and determines to collaborate with Gretchen.

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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.

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What are the similarities and differences between the setting of the stories "The Lesson" and "Raymond's Run"?

One similarity of the settings of "The Lesson" and "Raymond's Run" include being located in New York City. The toy store, FAO Schwarz, where Miss Moore takes the children in "The Lesson," has a famous New York City location. The store is on Fifth Avenue, which Sylvia also mentions; she notices that everybody is dressed well and that one lady is wearing a fur coat even in the heat.

In "Raymond's Run," Squeaky mentions a friend who had moved to Harlem, which is a neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. She also practices running on Broadway, which is a famous street in New York City. Therefore, both stories take place in various areas of the New York City, and both narrators discuss some of the struggles inherent in city life. They are also both set in fairly modern times.

The conflict of "The Lesson" mostly takes place indoors. Miss Moore takes Sylvia and her friends to the windows of FAO Schwarz, where they are astounded by the prices of the toys inside. When she asks the group to go inside, Sylvia feels oddly conflicted:

So me and Sugar turn the corner to where the entrance is, but when we get there I kinda hang back. Not that I'm scared, what's there to be afraid of, just a toy store. But I feel funny, shame. But what I got to be shamed about? Got as much right to go in as anybody. But somehow I can't seem to get hold of the door.

The opulent setting of the toy store contrasts with Sylvia's typical setting at home to such an extent that she feels somehow unwelcome and excluded from entrance. This setting shows the great divide that exists between New York City's wealthiest residents and those, like Sylvia and her friends, who live in a poor area of the city.

In "Raymond's Run," the setting takes place outdoors in New York City, where Squeaky finds great joy. She enjoys running and takes her brother Raymond along, because he has intellectual challenges and she is responsible for him. As she runs in the city, Squeaky carefully positions Raymond so that she can keep an eye on him during his various "fits of fantasy."

When she shows up to the park to race, Squeaky demonstrates a fierce determination to prove herself. She places Raymond in the little swings for her race and realizes that he won't fit there next year. The park is "jam-packed" with parents who supervise children in "white dresses and light-blue suits" and with basketball players who are waiting for the race to finish so that they can play. This setting is festive and generally relaxed, and Squeaky feels natural in this outdoor setting. Racing at the park is a much-anticipated event, and she feels completely confident in this setting, which contrasts with Sylvia's feelings of exclusion at the toy store.

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