The Coming of Age
Childhood is a time where children learn about the world around themselves. They see and experience many factors that influence their everyday lives, which help them grow stronger when they become adults. In ‘Girl’; by Jamaica Kincaid and ‘The Lesson’; by Toni Cade Bambara the characters within the stories learn valuable lesson with help them grow to become better individuals. In ‘The Lesson’; the character of Sugar undergoes a realization that society does not treat everyone equally, that not every individual has the same opportunity and equality that they should have. In ‘Girl’; the main character learns that she must be perceived as a woman and not as a slut, her mother brings to her attention of how the world is and what she must to do in order to survive in it. Lessons that children learn all help them grow to become better individuals, in ‘Girl’; and ‘The Lesson’; the lessons that the characters learn both help them grow to become better and stronger individuals.
In ‘The Lesson’; the character, Sugar undergoes a realization of the world around her, through her teacher Miss Moore, Sugar notices that there is a better way of living in the world besides, her own little world with her friends. Sugar says, ‘You know, Miss Moore, I don’t think that all of us here put together eat in a year what that sailboat costs,’; (Bambara 452). Miss Moore is an African American woman who has broken through the expectation that society has placed on her class and on her color. Bambara presents Miss Moore as a very educated and intelligent woman, who has a college degree. With her knowledge Miss Moore sets out to educate the deprived and lower classed children and teach them of the world around them. She sets out to open their eyes, as well as their knowledge of the world around them. Miss Moore says, ‘Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven. What do you think?,’; (Bambara 452).
Sugar’s realization of the world outside of her own, opens her mind to many questions that she never imagined before. She realizes that there is a better standard of living in the world and that society is not equal, as it should be, ‘I think, . . . that this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don’t it?,’; (Bambara 452). In this quotation Sugar realizes what Miss Moore set out to teach the lower classed and deprived children, her goal was to open their eyes and make them aware of how much more there is out there then making pocket change. ‘What kinda work they do and how they live and how come we ain’t in on it? Where we are is who we are, Miss Moore always pointin out. But it don’t necessarily have to be that way, she always adds then waits for somebody to say that poor people have to wake up and demand their share of the pie and place,’; (Bambara 452). With her eyes wide open and with her mind curious and educated, Sugar and her friends realize that in order for them to get some where in life they have to work at it, but not as in individual but as a whole, a class. The only way for them to make a difference to change societies view of their class and become part of the rest of societies.
In ‘Girl’; Kincaid lists a series of orders from a mother to a daughter in such a way that the characters’ lives are illuminated and transformed by the mundane household details. The ‘Girl’; is more of a gender type of a story, but there is also a lesson that needs to be realized by the girl. In this story the mother of this girl is her teacher, she tells her daughter of how the world is around her, just like Miss Moore in ‘The Lesson.’; The mother in this story tries to make her daughter realize that he needs to be viewed as a woman within society. Who or what the daughter is on the inside can be for herself, but on the outside she cannot let her actions give and impression that she is a slut to society. The mother says, ‘this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; . . . this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming, . . .’; (Kincaid 33). As this story progresses the mother lists various chores and behaviors she must do in order for her to remain a woman and not be viewed as a slut, ‘be sure to wash everyday, . . . don’t squat down to play marbles-you are not a boy, you know, . . .’; (Kincaid 33).
In this story the girl wishes to rebel against what her mother wishes for her to do, but she dose not wish to be viewed as a slut, if she doesn’t do everything her mother has taught her. Mother says, ‘this is how to make ends meet; always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh; but what is the baker won’t let me feel the bread?; you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread?,’; (Kincaid 34). In this story an issue of gender arises, where a girl needs to be taught how to become a woman and not be viewed as a slut. The daughter in ‘Girl’; wants to rebel against her mother and not be viewed as a slut to society, therefore hoping that society will not look down upon her, if she does not do everything that the mother has taught her that she must do.
In the stories of the ‘Girl’; and ‘The Lesson’; different lessons are learned, but the common realization of the world around them is learned by the characters and how each of the characters must learn to rebel against societies views. This realization helps them grow smarter and stronger as they grow older and come of age, from childhood to adulthood. Society has set standards for individuals to live by, but it is up to those individuals to break away, or live by the standards and views of society. ‘It is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough,’; (Bambara 452). In reality, society has set standards for everyone to live by. Those who break away from it are look down upon if they fail, but if they succeed they are praised by, this may be the only way to change societies views of gender, class, and race; it is by succeeding in everything that you do.