Nickel and Dimed, a book written by Barbara Ehrenreich is in itself, an extremely interesting view into the life of the poor. This book shines a light on people that normally do not receive any attention from anyone besides their fellow strugglers. The author of the book takes it upon herself to attempt to understand the life of someone who lives on wages that are much less than they require to a greater extent. Barbara Ehrenreich decides to live this way herself. Her book takes an in-depth look at the difficult experiences and extremely tough workdays some are forced to endure as minimum wage workers in multiple establishments. We obtain this visual through Ehrenreich’s personal experience as a low-wage worker in the United States.
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Throughout the entire book Ehrenreich is consistently able to describe to us in detail her everyday struggles as a worker making less than she required in order to live a comfortable life. There never seems to be any break in the misery as she attempts to live off of the money that she makes from multiple different jobs ranging from a waitress in a restaurant to a maid cleaning peoples houses. At the end of every workday, Ehrenreich is certainly able to tell us about the horrible way in which her boss treated her that day, or the ridiculous number of hours she was forced to work on her feet for almost no money at all. Through these constant stories that the author is telling us, we begin to see the lives of many people out there today whom we choose to ignore, the poor.
The effect of Barbara’s constant ability to tell us about the horrible life of a low-wage worker is extreme. This book brings us into the restaurant with the waitress that has to work on her feet for a ridiculous number of hours while at the same time dealing with the sexual harassment and awful treatment on behalf of her boss. The effectiveness of the stories we are provided with is eye opening. We are made able to understand the less than acceptable lives of those of us who simply just do not make enough maybe to support themselves and in many cases; their children.
Many of the people whose lives we get a look into through our author have kids as well. These are people who are working at a very low-wage job with a salary below the poverty line in this country, probably only sufficient for a college student, whom also have children they must look after. This is a struggle that many people in this country today are forced to face, and it is a much more difficult life than many of us give credit, it is a life that many people in today’s society choose to ignore. The decision we, as a society, make to ignore the poor is not a good decision. These are people with real lives (in many cases they are good hardworking people) and real children who need real help because the lives they are living is not much of a life at all.
The most unbelievable of Ehrenreich’s struggles was the horrible living conditions in which we are shown today’s poor are forced to live in, in this country. People would sometimes live in a hotel with lower rent payments because they could not afford to live anywhere else. In this specific situation, these people lost certain “privileges” because of the amount of money they were paying to live there. They were not allowed to have visitors in the apartment, if they did not make their payments on time then they were not allowed to receive messages, and the hotel staff forced them to enter the hotel through the back as not to make a negative impression on the customers with money entering through the front of the building. These are extremely demeaning circumstances in which no human should be forced to face, especially a person with children.
The hotel is only one example of an institution treating people in an unacceptable way simply because of the amount of money they make. Other examples include mostly employee and employer relationships, which take place in a variety of work environments. Restaurants seem to be a very common example of employee mistreatment by management. Ehrenreich gives us example of employee mistreatment by restaurant managers on multiple occasions. Employees are over-worked while the female employees are often sexually harassed by their boss. These institutions and their wide range of ethically lacking management staffs are taking advantage of those of us who have no choice but to allow it because they need the money.
The poor are not people we should be taking advantage of; they are people that we need to be helping because they are people just like us. Nickel and Dimed is filled with appalling true stories of the way some people are treated by those of us that have more money, it would seem as though that these people are under the impression that having more money makes you better then a person who has less money. This is not how we should treat our fellow human being; this is an example of something we need to change.
This book is filled with extremely enlightening first hand stories that would surprise anyone. Nickel and Dimed is a different kind of book in that the author went out and did something on her own accord, in this case it was living off a low wage job, in order to show people something she felt needed addressing, through her writing. This tells us a lot about the author herself. The fact that she actually went out and did this and then wrote about it shows that Ehrenreich notices the people that need help and cares enough about making a difference to join in their ranks and truly understand, with humble intentions, what the life of a person living in poverty today is like.
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