Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed on (not) Getting By In America. It is about how lower class people cannot make it in America because they do not make enough money to provide for themselves. If anyone could interest a reader it would Ehrenreich because of her style. At times she can be offensive with her hyperboles, satire and metaphors but I could not help my self from turning page after page. Ehrenreich paints a vivid picture in the reader’s head using a broad and appealing diction. She truly makes the reader feel like low wageworkers are isolated from the world because of the yearly income they bring in.
What better way to test a hypothesis than go out into the field and do it? Well, that is exactly what Ehreneich does. It starts off by her wondering if single mothers can survive financially that depend on what they make at a minimum wage job due to a recent Welfare reform. So she goes out into the “shark eat shark world” to see if should could survive in America. In her journey she attempts to live in Key West, Maine, and Minnesota.
In chapter two Ehreneich moves to Maine, she lives in a small cottage and works at small cleaning service during the week. She says, “…Maybe it’s low-wage work in general that has the effect of making Feel like a pariah. When I watch TV over my dinner at night, I see a world in which almost everyone makes $15 an hour or more, and I’m not just thinking of the anchor folks. The sitcoms and dramas are about fashion designers or schoolteachers or lawyers, so it’s easy for a fast-food worker or nurse’s aide to conclude that she is an anomaly — the only one, or almost the only one, who hasn’t been invited to the party. And in a sense she would be right: the poor have disappeared from the culture at large, from its political rhetoric and intellectual endeavors as well as from its daily entertainment. Even religion seems to have little to say about the plight of the poor, if that tent revival was a fair sample.
The moneylenders have finally gotten Jesus out of the temple.”(117-118) There are several words that paint a picture in the reader’s head like Pariah, Anomaly, and Plight. The word “Pariah” makes the reader fell as if the low wageworkers are isolated and casted away from regular society. This quote is extremely powerful it, she makes it seem like almost nearly everyone has clenched a decent job but a few unfortunate few. Then again when she says that the fast food worker feels like an “anomaly”. In my mind I saw a nasty picture of middle class and higher-class people partying and the fast food worker sitting off in the corner like an outcast. The last section of the quote I found a bit offensive but it is true. I am not religious at all but to me it sounds like she is saying religion has a factor in what class you belong too. In a sense that is very true a poor family is not going to attend church in some rich neighborhood they do not belong too. Her message is very true, class does matter and if someone happens to be in the wrong one they could be isolated.
In chapter three Ehreneich moves to Minnesota to work at a Wal-Mart, she has the most difficult time finding a steady place to live. Eventually she has to move into a hotel that is too expensive for her budget. The reader can see she is in a dark place when she says, “What you don’t necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you’re actually selling is your life.” (187). There is a lot of truth in this quote and Ehreneich has experienced it herself. When I read this part of the book it was extremely emotionally because I have a friend that is my age with a kid. He is attending college and working a full time job. I do not know how many hours of sleep he gets a day but I know if he saw this quote he could relate to it. How much is an hour of sleep worth to him? Probably a whole lot since he has to study and provide for a baby. This also ties into the previous quote because a family like this could feel as if they were not “invited to the party” which would cause an isolation feeling from the world.
Again in chapter two back into the small cottage and the maid job. Ehreneich says, “I dust a whole shelf of books on pregnancy, breastfeeding, the first six months, the first year, the first two years — and I wonder what the child care-deprived Maddy makes of all this. Maybe there’s been some secret division of the world’s women into breeders and drones, and those at the maid level are no longer supposed to be reproducing at all. Maybe this is why our office manager, Tammy, who was once a maid herself, wears inch-long fake nails and tarty little outfits — to show she’s advanced to the breeder caste and can’t be sent out to clean anymore.”(82) Wow, if this does not bring our Ehreneich’s idea of isolation I do not know what does.
Maids do not make a whole lot of money that is why she was working this job in the first place. To say they are not suppose to have children is a horrible thing but it brings up the idea of isolation because maid’s probably have trouble providing for themselves so why should they bring someone else into a life of struggle? Ehreneich’s words leap out of the page and come to life. Words like “breeder” and “drone” hurt to read because these people are so much more than that. I have had friends that have had children at a young age, they are not maids but they are in a similar situation. This quote hit close to home to me.
Nickel and Dimed on (not) Getting by in America is truly a powerful and emotional book. It opened my eyes. Her overall message that people cannot make it on a minimal wage job is true, they are isolated from the rest of the word. It seems as if in these last few years that the gap between rich and poor has grown to far to cross. How can we change this?