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Poverty in The Lesson and Sonny's Blues

6 Pages 1547 Words June 2020

Poverty
Toni Cade Bambara's, “The Lesson,” and James Baldwin's, “Sonny's Blues” are both stories about poverty that are set in Harlem. “Sonny's Blues,” is about two brothers who are estranged due to one brother's drug addiction. “The Lesson,” is about a teacher who takes four neighborhood kids to a toy store to teach them something about the role money plays in keeping some people poor in a capitalist society. The characters in each of these stories have made choices or may make choices in the future that may help them escape poverty. The stories suggest that motivation to make good choices has an effect on a person's ability to change his or her circumstances and successfully rise out of poverty or, unsuccessfully, to remain poor for life.

“The Lesson,” is about four kids, whose names are Sylvia, Sugar, Junior and Junebug, and a neighbor, an educated, black woman, who is a teacher, Miss Moore. They all live in a neighborhood called Harlem. Sylvia is the narrator of this story. One day Miss Moore takes the kids to the toy store. Both Sylvia and Sugar hesitate to go through the door of the toy store. Bambara writes, “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” (308). This quote shows that Sylvia understands that she lives a life of poverty and it causes her shame. Once inside the store, the kids are shocked at how much the toys cost. One of the kids takes notice of a microscope but realizes it costs $300. The kids are shocked because they know they couldn't afford it even if they save up their allowance. When Miss Moore asks a question to the children about what money really is, the kids take this as a sign of disrespect. They hate Miss Moore and think she is mocking them. That the kids think Miss Moore is mocking them shows that they do not truly understand her que...

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