The story reveals that blaming the society or the government is not a solution to poverty or lack of opportunities. Every person has a capability to be ‘equal’ to others. The only thing that is needed is proper guidance, nurturing environment and a strong desire. Hence, the core message of the story is that no matter what the ethnic background of a person is, the two things that have the power to awaken the sleeping giant in him are the presence of a personal guide in life and a strong desire to live a respectable life in the society.
In the short story ‘The Lesson’, the author Toni Cade Bambara has used the setting of black ethnic community to show the unequal life opportunities present in the society. The story begins with the narrator (a child named Sylvia) describing the way she and her friends spend their time laughing at different people and teasing them on their appearance. The reader gets the idea about the lack of direction, guidance and hope in the lives of the children belonging to the black community. They are left alone at home as their parents do not have time for them. Lack of a guardian in the absence of the parents develops carelessness, irresponsible behavior, rude manners and bad language pattern in children. However, the parents cannot be blamed as their poverty makes them incapable of caring for their children.
As the story proceeds, the reader realizes that the characters in the story are the black children living in the slums. Their parents are poor and can barely manage a place to live and food to eat. Under such circumstances, they cannot afford to leave their jobs to look after their children. The author has attracted the reader’s attention to the fact that the weak financial condition of poor families does not allow them to spend time with their children. They have to work day and night in order to survive. Hence, the children are brought up without proper guidance or a role