Essay on Book Critique: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Submitted By meyow3
Words: 1388
Pages: 6

Can someone really live and prosper in American receiving minimal income? Can someone create a good life for themselves on just five to seven dollars an hour? In Nickel and Dimed, author Barbara Ehrenreich wonders if due to recent welfare reforms single mothers, who depend merely on what they can make at minimum wage jobs, will be able to survive financially. Giving herself only $1,000 she leaves the lifestyle that she has come acquainted too and goes to join those people living a minimum wage lifestyle.
Barbara Ehrenreich decided to include three case studies, which she underwent herself, to prove that it would be nearly impossible for a single mother and her children to live on a low-wage salary with no supplementary aid. She supports her experience with secondary sources such as scholarly literature, statistics, and newspaper articles. As a result, Ehrenreich makes the hypothesis that her personal experience is an effective way of evaluating what a low-wage lifestyle is like. She indicates that by supporting her experience with other literature and factual data, she will strengthen her argument. I would’ve expected Ehrenreich to have documented her evidence topically; by discussing all of the single mothers she met along the way, all of the housing experience she had, and all of the managers she met. However, she presents her evidence chronologically. I came to the conclusion that she most likely does this because it better develops her narrative since she recounts her project as a story.
Before setting out, she gave herself a list of rules she had to follow so that her experience and understanding could be as real as possible. Her first rule was when looking for a job she couldn't reference any of he skills she had learned from her education. The Second rule was that she had to take the highest paying job that was being presented to her. The Third rule was that she had to live in the cheapest housing that she could, providing that it was a safe atmosphere. Going hungry or being homeless were ruled out and not allowed to be alternative options. She understood that she would never truly experience poverty because this is nothing more than a project, but she left behind her long-standing life and returned to society as a divorced homemaker reentering the workforce after several years. Her primary goal is to get enough income to be able to pay for all her expenses and also have enough left over to pay her monthly rent.
In Chapter One Barbara begins in Key West. In this chapter she gathers a lot of information about low-wage-job applications. Each application she filled out has various multiple-choice questions and sometimes even a urine test. She patiently awaited a response to her initial applications, but after hearing nothing back, applied for a job as a waitress. Fortunately she was hired and her pay consists of $2.43 and hour plus tips.
As days go by she found herself growing to dislike her management. She noticed that she was constantly up and about while those whom supervise seem to sit all day. She realized that she must constantly be occupied or else she will be given even harder tasks to do. She recognized that she needed keep herself engaged without outdoing her co-workers.
In the beginning of the chapter she described finding an apartment that she thought she could afford, but she soon found out that she can't afford a deposit for the apartment, and she may find herself living in a hotel. With the costs adding up after two weeks she came to terms with the fact that she needs a second job. Barbara got another waitressing job that turned out to be much worse then her former one. It's very disorderly and she wasn’t able to have breaks, but as a result she's got paid much more. Soon after she quit her first job because she was unable to work at both places. In the meantime she looked for a new place to live that was closer to work that way she can save gas money. Ultimately she found herself living in a