The Truth of the Quiet Shame and Despair of Individuals Living in Poverty

Poverty, Such a simple word with such deep meaning. What exactly is poverty? Poverty is considered a crisis, according to Rana Foroohar in her article, “The Truth About the Poverty Crisis“ According to dictionaryrcom, poverty is, “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.” However, if someone who is living in poverty were asked that question, the answer would be completely different, Poverty is working until the limbs are falling off, more than one job, and still not being able to sufficiently provide for family, according to David K Shipler in his article “A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class,“ Poverty is living with illness and long forgetting what “healthy” means, according to “What is Poveny?” by Jo Goodwin Parkerr Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a few articles on poverty, and even a book entitled Nickel and Dimed on (Not) getting by in America.

Thoreau says a very powerful and true quote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation“.

While this may not pertain just to poverty, it’s definitely proven true by the mass of population who are poor, or those who know and feel for the poorr “But the poverty problem is also about fracturing the American Dream, specifically the dream of upward mobility,” says Rana Foroohar in “The Truth About the Poverty Crisisi” Many immigrants come to America to fulfill their American dream. But they are extremely disappointed when they arrive, They find that they might be living in even worse conditions than in their home country.

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In her book Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich, states that Imagine you sprain your wrist. What would you do? Go to the hospital, right? Now imagine that you don’t have to money to pay for the bill, You have to live with it. It will heal on its own, but it will take quite a while. But you don’t have the time. If you don’t go to work, your family will starvei You just have to buy yourself pain killers, and keep taking them.

In Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich talks about how if someone has a migraine; they just “pop two Excedrins and get on with life” (87) In “What is Poverty?” Parker talks about how she saved for two months just to buy some Vaseline for her cracked hands and for her baby’s diaper rash. Yet, the price went up and she had to keep suffering, This is just horriblei Holly, in Nickel and Dimed, sprained her ankle, but she can’t afford to go get it checked out, Not just that, she can’t afford to miss even one day of work (109-114) And it’s not just if something gets broken, either, Parker lets us know that her children are suffering from malnutrition. In “A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class,” Shipler conveys Caroline’s storyt Her daughter, Amber, had a handicap Shipler describes, “Caroline’s pregnancy had been marked by two factors known to affect brain development: she had not eaten nutritiously, and she had smoked” So, not just the parents suffer from malnutrition, the children have to suffer as well, sometimes as a result of the parents’ malnourishmentt.

Thoreau‘s quote is also proven true in these examples. If someone is living so poorly that they can’t afford to stay healthy, they are definitely living in despair, If a person can’t eat, they tend to be more moody and therefore, they aren’t happy. They live in quiet desperation, suffering on, Despair causes people to change This change usually results in the person being more easily irritated and therefore worse than they would like to be. Poverty often brings out the worst in people, Ehrenreich proves this statement to be true in her book Nickel and Dimedi She explains that while she was working at Wal-Mart in Minnesota, she was shocked by her thoughts. She confesses, “This is not me, at least not any version of me I’d like to spend much time with, just as my tiny coworker is probably not usually a bitch, She’s someone who works all night and naps during the day when her baby does, I find out laterw” Ehrenreich realizes that poverty often makes people react differently to things than they would react if they weren’t deprived of so many things Ebrenreich‘s deprivation of sleep and a proper meal is causing her to be on a short fuse, so to say. This is very true.

I have noticed that on days that I don’t get enough sleep, I tend to be grumpy. People irritate me easier and I tend to snap at them. So Ehrenreich’s reaction is not out of the ordinary, considering her circumstances And when Ehrenreich states that she doesn‘t wish to spend time with the person she became (168), it is clear that she’s suffering from despair. She is in despair that she has become this unrecognizable person, and she can’t change it, because she is just constantly under stress, Finally, another entity that causes the poor to lead lives of quiet desperation (Thoreau) is that the poor have to suffer plenty of shame, Ehrenreich compares her experiences while working as a cleaning lady to the racism African Americans experienced, in her book Nickel and Dimed. She complains, “I used to stop [at the supermarket] on my way home from work, butI couldn’t take the stares, which are easily translatable into: What are you doing here…Maybe, it occurs to me, I’m getting a tiny glimpse of what it would be like to be black” She’s embarrassed to wear her cleaning uniform to public places, because people would judge her, make fun of her, stare at hert.

In “A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class,” Shipler relays to us about how Caroline’s first daughter was embarrassed to be seen with her mother after ballgames at school because Caroline would dig through garbage cans and look for S-cent cans. Parker enlightens us to the horrible experiences of poverty by telling us that when she goes to get help, and people tell her why she needs to wait for someone to help her, but she can’t “really hear because of the red cloud of shame and the rising black cloud of despain” The shame just adds on to the despair, The people who live below the poverty line are living a life that makes them feel like they’re in a cage, and they can’t get out They can’t see anything beyond the shame and despair that overwhelms themi Based on these resources, one can easily conclude that the poor lead lives of quiet desperation, which is a paraphrased version of Thoreau’s famous quote.

However, Thoreau quotes that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” One can observe that yes, the poor prove this quote true, but the mass of men? Well, people go through many things that are invisible. The poor are just an example of this. As Shipler wisely states, “She is the invisible America, unnoticed because she blends in..,She was out of sight, part of the hidden America,” about Caroline, a minimum-wage worker struggling for survival This could pertain to those who are struggling for existence, for example the bullied, the rejects, the outcasts. They all lead lives of quiet desperation, struggling to be acknowledged Some can’t take the silence any longer and this is why we have so many school shootings, suicides, depression and anxiety. But this isn’t only true of those; it’s also true of the people who bully and who make people feel bad about themselves Why? Because they are living in desperation as well. They just take it out on others. Even those who seem to have it all lead lives of quiet desperation. They‘re obviously not worried about money, which is the cause of desperation for the poor, They might be worried about their children, their parents, their future, their peers, their patients, their students, their teachers, and the list goes on and on. They are just wise and keep it all inside. Desperation is a feeling of hopelessness, and the mass of men truly do lead lives of quiet desperation (Thoreau).

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The Truth of the Quiet Shame and Despair of Individuals Living in Poverty. (2022, Jul 13). Retrieved from

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