Cheri Register earned a PhD and pursued the career of a professor, yet she cannot get over the fact that she had been raised by parents who belonged to the working class (Register 10). Their work is “revile[d]” by affluent Americans, including those that belong to the same class as Register, now that she has escaped life in the small town of America that she grew up in (Register 19). Her old town continues to appear as “working-class in character” (Register 17). Her daughters, who have been raised in a city, miss the presence of the likes of Gap and Contempo in the working class town (Register 17).
According to Register, class consciousness is an integral element of the American mindset. Even as those Americans who do not have to provide cheap labor for their children to achieve “something different and better” find it convenient to look down upon the labor class, Register believes that the services provided by the poor people of America are “essential” albeit “unpleasant” (Register 19). Somebody has to work in the packinghouse, just as somebody else is required to work in a food processing plant at the minimum wage rate.
Those who escape the working class lifestyle are individuals like Register who find it easy to perform mental labor and obtain the academic degrees required to climb the ladder of material success (Register). As the example of Gap and Contempo shows, people from different socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States must needs have different buying habits. When unemployed people from Register’s small town are invited to a Christmas store, some of them refuse to purchase “‘anything nice’” (Register 21). A sense of “deprivation” has been built into their mindsets (Register 21).
Yet, those who are able to afford luxuries are conscious of the differences between a “paper-thin deli turkey” and “a frozen turkey loaf” (Register 13). What is more, people from the working class, perhaps because they are exposed for long periods of time to disagreeable working conditions, have come to believe that the rich and educated people are amoral. Register writes: “My dad once paid this great compliment to my brother-in-law: ‘Rog is such a nice guy you’d never even know he was educated’” (13). She further describes the teaching of her father thus: Hadn’t he taught me that rich people aren’t happy, that Republicans will do you in for
money, that “we . . . the little guys . . . the ordinary working people” are little and ordinary precisely because we are too moral to do what it takes to get rich? (Register 6- 7). Of course, the major part of Register’s book is a description of the labor union strike that she observed as a youth in small town America. The working class felt exploited by the rich. Register was confronted by the following question being worked on for a solution: “Whose rights should prevail, those who supply the money or those who supply the labor that keeps towns like Albert Lea vital” (Register 20)?
It was the first time that the author was exposed to the word “Unfair” being applied “to weighty questions of justice that may be in dispute forever” (Register 20). This is to say that the poor would continue feeling exploited by the rich, who may or may not be concerned about ethics and equality as they seek greater profits by offering low wages to those that work hard to sustain their families, hoping for their children to have a better life. The author writes about “powerless workers up against a heartless adversary” (Register 163).
On a similar note, her great-grandfather had written about the picturesque landscape being destroyed because of the greed of those that hoped to make money, whether they did so through deforestation or construction of manufacturing plants (Register 18). Thus, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds express themselves as ethical as compared to those who compete against each other to get richer by the day regardless of whether they must usurp the rights of others in the process.
As mentioned before, those who are well-off, on the other hand, continue to look down upon the kind of work performed by the working class folks even though their services are equally important, according to the author. Although Register would not like her children to be exposed to unlikable working conditions that her parents had survived, she would not stop respecting the dignity of people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. She understands their mindset better than those individuals from the rich class who have never seen their parents as low wage workers.
People who have never seen their loved ones in difficult conditions may continue to exploit the poor. As Register writes, this conflict may be never-ending. In other words, the capitalists of America may continue offering low wages to labor in order to enhance profits. For this reason, Register’s book offers lavish food for thought to educated Americans. Due to their efforts in the right direction, that is, to reverse the plague of inequality, it is possible that in future working class Americans would stop feeling belittled by the capitalists even as the latter would stop usurping their human rights.