Fiction Paper Assignment

Submitted By Bennett-Fontenot
Words: 929
Pages: 4

Bennett Fontenot
Professor Courtney Dueitt
EN 2203-01
Fiction Paper Assignment
17 February 2015
“The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara Setting is an extremely important role in portraying the deeper meaning behind any piece of literature. In “The Lesson,” by Toni Cade Bambara, the setting is the most influential part of the short story. Throughout the story are two immediate settings. The narrator and main character is Sylvia, a young African American woman living in Harlem who takes a field trip to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to visit one of the most notorious and high-priced toy stores in the world. Sylvia is given the opportunity to see the completely different world of Manhattan, which ultimately expands her possibilities. Bambara uses both dynamic characters as well as two immediate settings throughout “The Lesson” to teach the reader that despite where one is raised, there are endless opportunities to achieve a successful future as well as how influential particular settings are to a character. First and foremost, the author uses setting to show two different sides of New York that vary in multiple ways. The first immediate setting being in the projects of Harlem where Sylvia and her friends live. In the story “The Lesson,” Sylvia says at the beginning, “So we heading down the street and she’s boring us silly about what things cost and what our parents make and how much goes for rent and how money ain’t divided up right in this country. And then she gets to the part about we all poor and live in the slums, which I don’t feature” (Bambara 209). This quote provides an insight to the reader of the reality of Sylvia and the other characters actual home living situation. The author includes this because not only does it address the home life of the characters but it also provides further understanding to the time period of the story. Bambara explains that money is not divided properly throughout the country, which informs the reader that economic equality is still an issue. In addition, the author uses Manhattan as a second immediate setting to show how it significantly differs from Harlem despite being just a cab drive away. In the story, “The Lesson,” Sylvia says, “Then we check out that we on Fifth Avenue and everybody dressed up in stockings. One lady in a fur coat, hot as it is. White folks crazy” (Bambara 210). This quote shows just how differently Sylvia views Manhattan from the exact moment upon arrival. The author includes this because it shows how absurd it is to Sylvia that the wealthy people of Manhattan wear their extravagant fur coats regardless of how hot the weather is. Immediately Sylvia feels intimidated and uncomfortable as she approaches F.A.O Schwarz. In the story Sylvia says, “So me and Sugar turn the corner to where the entrance is, but when we get there I kinda hang back” (Bambara 212). This quote precisely demonstrates just how out of place Sylvia and her cousin feel. The author includes this because it gives further insight to how young African Americans virtually still fell inferior or unequal to Caucasian people based on economic status and race. Finally, the author uses the setting to show that by the end of the story Sylvia’s character is dynamic after all. In the beginning of the story the author portrays Sylvia as a very stubborn and cynical person. However, in the end of “The Lesson,” Sylvia says after she realizes the validity of Sugars statement, “She shuts up, and Miss Moore looks at me, sorrowful I’m