The Idea of Innocence in Bambara’s the Lesson
During the reading of the story “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara” many thoughts have come to my mind on how to react towards the attitude and the feelings of the protagonist, Sylvia. The day starts when Ms. More brings the kids to downtown New York City in a special shop. Many things will occur at this place and one thing that we will notice is the innocence throughout the interactions of the kids. As they step inside FAO Schwarz, an important and well known store in the city, they happen to see toys, like a small toy sailboats at prices around 1000$ and other things at ridiculous prices!
Not understanding how people could spend that much for such little things, the underprivileged neighborhood kids don’t seem to make such a big deal out of it, and are more amazed than anything. Except for Sylvia, she notices the reason of her trip here, and her moral innocence towards this isn’t at the same level as the others … At first, Sylvia happens just to be a girl that does not want to go wherever Ms. Moore is going to bring them, but she is listening to her parents. This first decision just brings in her a negative effect. Even if Ms.
Moore happens to be the nicest women in the world, she prefers being at the pool at this moment. The atmosphere isn’t the best, and the kids, especially her, can’t wait to get back to their houses and go play outside. Sylvia demonstrates absolutely no innocence at this moment and in fact, she tries to look at Ms. Moore from a high point view, thinking that this lady won’t learn anything to her today. “And she was black as hell cept for her feet, which were fish white and spooky” (Bambara P. 116). The author used the last quote to demonstrate how she insults Ms.
Moore and how since she is so black but she is wearing white, there is a connection between her and the white community at this moment. Maybe that’s why Sylvia may be the only one in the end that will understand something of this day. As the story moves on, an evident change is occurring in Sylvia’s thoughts, she still thinks that this a stupid expedition but she starts to think now, how can people afford these things.
“My parents could pay the rent, the food and my clothes for a year with kind of money! (Bambara P. 119) As a stubborn girl, she really is confused with the motive of this trip and a moral innocence starts to be present in her thoughts. She starts to see how society works and that she will have to one day stand up if she wants to have her share of the pie; not only her, but the whole African-American society that lives in the slums of New York. With an attitude that is extremely present, she gets really mad at how society works because she is starting to understand it a little bit.
Compared to the other kids that are living a total dream, seeing all these toys and thinking that one day they would play with them, she stands out. The innocence present in the other kids is really clear: they see amazing toys at exorbitant prices and their feeling pretty much stops there. Innocent of the ignorance they aren’t able to go to school and understand what is going on outside of their little community. Finally, Sylvia shows that she is mad and her moral innocence starts to disappear as she starts to understand what kind of pie Ms. Moore is talking about.
Honestly she doesn’t really want to show it to others because she is way too hard headed to give the old lady any sort of recognition on this trip. Her innocence then becomes something more spiritual. Because now that the day is over, she can think of the ice cream she will buy but she also (when Sugar starts to run to race her to a store) she says: “She can run if she want to and even run faster. But ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin”(Bambara P. 121). I think that it is at this moment that all the innocence she showed during the trip, how she didn’t understand the motive, changes and disappears and becomes spiritual.
She is now ready to confront the real world and knows that no one will beat her at anything and this is how Ms. Moore did her job. The story really brought another dimension on the lives of these people living in misery. We really see how the innocence is present in the brain of all these kids. If this trip didn’t occur, they wouldn’t even know that some people have more money than others. With the fact that internet and television weren’t that present at this time, really shows how they were disconnected.
This experience is really something that will mark them since it happens at a period where their brains are growing and are starting to build links in their heads. It’s in that case that I say, once again, that there is also a certain spiritual innocence that will just rest inside their heads, and make them understand better in the future, how society works, and how they need to move on if they want to see a change. The time for them to stand up will arrive soon, and they will then thank Ms. Moore I am sure…