Nickel And Dimed Review

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Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich is a mentally challenging read in more ways than one. In this book, Ms. Ehrenreich guides us through her adventure into starting over from the bottom of the social barrel. Her experiment with poverty begins with an agenda, a few amenities, some rules, and a lot of ambition to dive into her new lifestyle.

The overall take from this book I received is one that left me critically thinking. Ehrenreich’s uses her arguments, examples, and evidence to state and support her conclusion: the working poor should be paid more.

However, her final verdict is not one I am not entirely against, nor do I find it practical. After reading her story and doing some analyzing of my own, I’ve decided that her argument seems valid, yet, her conclusion standing alone does not.

The author’s argument states that people cannot survive in today’s society on low or minimum wage pay. Only career people make it in this sort of society. In her book, she writes, “And that is how we should see the state of poverty of so many millions of low-wage Americans – as a state of emergency. (Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. Pg. 214. Published 01/01/01. )

Writing A Critical Analysis Essay

This “emergency” is a nation-wide epidemic, and has been known to be accompanied by many other social issues.

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Her argument’s focal point preaches on the injustice of low-wage workers in terrible situations being treated unfairly with no option to do better for themselves. This is a point I am 100% in agreement with. Commonly, those who work jobs of low income, have little to no accommodations, and have their life situations out in the open are not treated with respect.

A man or woman can have all of the traits of an excellent worker with impeccable character and still be disrespected as a person due to their circumstances. This circulating issue makes poverty so much more of a problematic struggle, one that should not be this hard. Plenty of evidence supports this argument. Some of the problems Ehrenreich expresses she had seen include: terrible living situations, lack of financial stability, degrading jobs, lack of employee respect, and much more. One example situation she mentions in the first chapter is that of her ineteen-year-old coworker George.

George was a Czech Republican dishwasher at Jerry’s, where the author claimed to have worked. Shortly after meeting this young man, she learns of his employment and living arrangements, which are not at all too great. Ms. Barbara tells of his $5/hour arrangement to work at Jerry’s, and of his apartment not only housing him, but several of his companions. George cannot even rest until one of his roommates leaves for a shift, leaving their bed for him to use. This is only one of the unfortunate souls she compiles into this story.

The author’s evidence delves into many other aspects of the “working poor. ” Another of her coworkers, Rosalie, barely ate but half of one small bag of Doritos due to her financial situation. Without a doubt, her evidence toward the claim that poverty is not a stable way to survive is correct in my eyes. As society’s standards (and prices) increase, those who cannot meet these rising requirements are instantly left in a ditch or buried further down in the one they’ve inhabited. As far as I’ve seen, poverty is a problem that is masked, but still visible to those who know it.

The tales of people Ehrenreich has encountered during her experiment brought to light for me the hard truth to believe that people are struggling, even while being employed. Although sometimes hidden, plenty of low-class or “poor” citizens still roam this country. Nickel and Dimed is a unique analysis being that the author uses herself as the “experimental guinea pig. ” Ehrenreich is a scholar with a PH. D in biology and more financial stability than she exhibited in this book. Starting this project, she set the bar way lower than her normal standards in order to jump out of her comfort zone and into her poverty persona.

Wanting to set parameters for this endeavor, her rules were as stated: never fall back on any skills from her original occupation, take the highest-paying job offered to her and keep it, and obtain only the cheapest accommodations available within reason of safety. She also set some limits: she would always have a car, would never be homeless, and would never under any circumstances go hungry. From “Serving in Florida” and “Scrubbing in Maine” to “Selling in Minnesota,” every summer Ms. Barbara cleaned her slate and started fresh at a new area.

This was after she had returned to her real life and taken care of her business as a successful woman. The fact that she could return to her old life at the flip of a hat put a negative outlook on her experiment. Only researching and experiencing temporary poverty could be considered shallow; there is a total difference when being stuck in it. Most of the people she had the pleasure (or displeasure) of meeting had been stuck in their own mess without any mop to clean it up with (even when working as a maid. ) Her restaurant colleague Gail had been sharing a room in a flophouse for $250 a week.

Her circumstance also included an inappropriate male roommate. Even if she could have left her living arrangement to escape this female menace, she could not come up with the rent money by herself. Many other employees suffered from similar problems. The lack of financial stability dealt them a horrid hand when pertaining to housing, food, necessities, health, and other important needs. That was their reality. The reality of the author, however, allowed her to revert back to her successful woman status. For this reason, I believe her methods were a bit unrealistic.

Her tales of others were more accurate than her persona. Ehrenreich’s heart wrenching experience with the “working poor” leads her to an interesting conclusion. In her evaluation, she pats herself on the back grading her experience with a B or B+ despite falling short of her expectations and breaking rules. I regret to say that her confidence in her work ethic as a “low-wager” sounded more on the lines of arrogance to me. However she admits that not everyone with a high status can survive the grueling nightmare most of these jobs can be, and that is good enough for me.

Stating her solution, Ms. Barbara believes that in order to solve this issue, the low-class workers should be paid more for what they are worth. More money is her solution. Although most people would agree that money equals power, there are some problems that more money cannot fix alone. By increasing the pay of those who work low-pay jobs, there could be an imbalance in society. Along with increased wages, there should be better treatment of employees, respect as people, and aid for those who need it.

However, the employees have to be willing to work out of their situations instead of living in them. What else can be said about Nickel and Dimed? There were many positive aspects of the book. The pros of Nickel and Dimed really draw a perspective that most people do not think about. Not all people with jobs are well off. Society still has a long way to go before the percentage of Americans living the “American dream” overshadows the percentage of people wanting to experience it.

Ehrenreich provides readers with insight of people in the working world struggling to make it the next ay or year with the dead-beat jobs they have. Without these trials and experiments putting people of status into the shoes of those who can’t afford a new pair, the needs of these people would not be met as easily. A person who does not know how to help most-likely will not be able to assist. As for Ehrenreich’s theory, my agreement leans toward her implementation of her solution if added with several other fixes. There are other matters beside the need of money that need to be addressed.

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Nickel And Dimed Review. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Nickel And Dimed Review
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