In the following essay, Hargrove traces the painful process Sylvia undergoes as "she is forced to realize the unfairness of life."
[A] painful experience of disillusionment appears in what is perhaps the best of the fifteen stories, "The Lesson." Again, the story centers on and owes much of its vitality to its first-person narrator, a young girl named Sylvia. Arrogant, sassy, and tough, with a vocabulary that might shock a sailor, Sylvia is also witty, bright, and vulnerable. In the course of the story she learns a lesson which disillusions her about the world in which she lives, about the society of which she is a part. Against her will, she is forced to realize the unfairness of life and, as a black girl, her often low position in the scheme of things. Although she fights..... (Staff, 2005)

  • Bill Wathen: I found the critic's review of “The Lesson” to be agreeable. At first I thought that Sylvia left the experience having gained nothing. After reading the review, I was able to see Sylvia’s withdrawal from the arrogant posturing for what it was; disillusionment (Staff, 2005).

  • Robert Wilburn: I also found the critics view also agreeable. I feel that blacks in this age are still arrogant, stubborn, and sassy. Many of the blacks in America are still poor because many don’t pursue or understand how the economy is now. Many become poor because they don’t get an education and would rather play basketball or try to break into the rapping business. Many don’t succeed and become poor because they don’t have a good enough degree or education to get a good paying job. In this story Sylvia and gang don’t understand at that time the importance of having an education and that’s why they made fun of Miss Moore behind her back.

  • Travis Crust: I, too, find the criticism agreeable. At the beginning of the story I was not sure what the point of it was, and did not understand why it was so acclaimed. As I reached the end, however, and saw what was brought about from the young character's observations, I began to understand the significance of it. I do not personally feel as though it is the parent's fault in most cases, as it may simply be due to financial issues.

Works Cited

Staff, B. (2005). The Lesson: Critical Essay #3. Retrieved December 10, 2008, from