Sylvia Vs. Miss Moore

In “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara, Sylvia and Miss Moore have an odd relationship. Miss Moore seems to fully recognize Sylvia and the kids as individuals but Sylvia does not. In the story, Miss Moore calls the kids by their first names rather than their nicknames (111 & 114). Calling someone by their own name is special and defines their identity. She treats them as human beings rather than as delinquents or trouble makers as others might. Even though Miss Moore is anything but rude to the kids, they still treat her awfully, especially Sylvia.

One can tell from the beginning that Sylvia has lots of contempt for Miss Moore when she thinks, “I’m really hating this nappy-head bitch and her goddamn college degree” (110). This disrespect is expressed again when Sylvia thinks, “… though I never talk to her, I wouldn’t give the bitch that satisfaction” (113). Sylvia probably does not have much power in her life, being a poor, black girl, so she acts rude and bossy trying to maintain any sort of power/control she can get. However, Miss Moore constantly attempts to break down this power struggle by treating Sylvia properly and not putting her down. Miss Moore strives for mutual recognition while Sylvia wants to remain in control.

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