Toni Cade Bambara's The Lesson Essay

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Toni Cade Bambara, a well known author and social activist, uses language and experience to incite change in a warped society that marginalizes its people based on language, race, and class. With the utilization of African American English (AAE), Bambara sheds light on some questionable prejudices and problems with capitalism in American society. Bambara’s works are noted for their use of traditional AAE and its support in teaching the overall “lesson” and the underlying message to the public. The majority of Bambara’s works were inspired by and written in response to her experiences of growing up a black woman, of lower class status, in Harlem. Her short story, “The Lesson,” is no exception. Bambara uses first person narrative,…show more content…
Bambara’s work has been praised for its outstanding ability to capture the innocence of an adolescent voice; this is obviously done through the lighthearted and engaging black dialect of youth. Suggested reasoning for this innocent, but strong voice is to help the reader come to similar realizations with the narrator or main characters; the language is obviously evidence of the characters’ race, class, education, and geographical whereabouts. Bambara wants the general public to be able to see life through the eyes of these innocent, yet insightful youths. Her style of narration is arguably one of the most distinctive aspects of her writing. In “The Lesson,” Bambara’s main character is an energetic, sarcastic, bossy, and strong little girl; through the language Sylvia uses throughout the story, the reader gets to see her grow and mature in her ideas about society and her place in it. The first few sentences of the story are quite revealing; the reader clearly sees two things. One characteristic being that the event he or she is about to read actually happened in the past, and secondly, the narrator is quite sassy: “Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right, this lady moved on our block with nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup” (Bambara 85). In addition to revealing the tense of the story and the frank nature of
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