Reader Response “The Lesson”

“The Lesson” is a remarkable short story, which reveals the persistent controversy in the US society. Within the short story, the author has managed to uncover the wide gap existing between the white majority and the middle class, on the one hand, and the African American community, which is in the inferior position, on the other. In this respect, the author attempts to show serious social problems from the child’s perspective for the narrator is just a child, who has her own set of values and toys are probably the most comprehensible measurement of an individual’s happiness for her. This is why the author sets the story in the toy shop environment. In such a way, the author shows that children led by their teacher, Ms. Moore, have never seen such a toy shop.
In fact, it is through the toy shop and its perception by children, the author has managed to convey the idea of the inequality and injustice in the US society, which is the main theme of “The Lesson”. Children have never seen such toys to the extent that they cannot understand whether the price tags they see mean the price of a real sailboat or a toy. This means that African American children live in poverty and the narrator assumption that her mother would consider her crazy, if she asks her $35 to buy a toy illustrates perfectly the wide gap between the predominantly white middle class, who can purchase these toys, and African Americans, who cannot even admit the idea of buying a toy at such a price.

In fact, African American children seem to live in a different world. They have their own set of values. They know how much living costs and they understand that they need money for food and they cannot waste them on toys. A toy shop is a window to the world of “white folks crazy”, which African American children would probably never understood because they belong to two absolutely different classes, which are two absolutely different worlds. They live in one and the same country but the trip of African American children to the toy shop turns out to be like a trip to another planet. In such a way, the author shows that the wide socioeconomic gaps between the white and the blacks persist.

At the same time, children feel unfairness and the internal protest grows strong in them. The narrator attempts to hide her protest because she views her teacher, Ms. Moore, as a sort of enemy. She does not want to show her weakness in face of Ms. Moore. The author does not say directly but probably the reason for such a behavior of the narrator is the whiteness of Ms. Moore. As a result, the narrator views her as being hostile to her world. She views herself and her peers as a part of their own, African American community, whereas Ms. Moore is a representative of the white community. She is just one of those white crazy folks.

Thus, the author attempts to draw readers’ attention to burning socioeconomic and racial problems in the US society. The author shows that African Americans are excluded from benefits, which the predominantly white middle class takes for granted. The social gaps turn out to be too wide and they have to be closed to prevent a deep social conflict.

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