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The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara is a short story set in the inner part of New York City that gives the reader an opportunity to briefly see into the lives of children living devoid of wealth and education It takes place in the early seventies following the civil rights movement and during a time when the imbalance of wealth in terms of race was immense Bamabara through the use of narrative point of tone symbols setting and characterization brings out and develops what I believe to be the two main themes of the story materialism and social inequality The narrator in The Lesson is a young girl named Sylvia who tells the story in first person Through her we get a picture of the difficulties experienced from growing up in a poor urban area where the gaps in social classes and quality of living are so evident Sylvia is an intelligent girl but more street smart than book smart Her experience outweighs her education and at the time when the story takes place she doesnt seem to have any aspiration of ever leaving the slums As we are exposed to more of Sylvias personality throughout the story it becomes clear that the story is told in two different tones The first tone is one of a child who is still growing learning and experiencing The second tone is different but not drastically The use of coarse language remains consistent but the level of intelligence seems to elevate demonstrated when Sylvia says whats there to be afraid of just a toy store But I feel funny shame 423 By saying this she is showing she has more life experience and understands the feeling of shame and what causes it We also get the impression that the story is being told by Sylvia as an adult looking back on the scene Sylvias different tones and her use of voice play an important role in adding to
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