Analysis of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Analysis of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

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1.) Rhetorical Analysis – pages 1 – 19 (Introduction and part of Chapter 1)
Barbara Ehrenreich’s use of logos in order to gain the reader’s support and approval was prevalent throughout this section. She clearly outlines her credibility and aptitude in the introduction of her novel - she mentions her education as well as statistical facts about hourly wages in the United States and how they will relate to her experiment. She points out her “…PhD in biology, (which she) didn’t get by sitting at a desk and fiddling with numbers” and how “According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, in 1998 it took an hourly wage of $8.89 to afford a one-bedroom apartment…the odds against a typical welfare recipient’s landing a job at such a ‘living wage’ were about 97 to 1.”
Through this, the reader understands that the author has an advanced amount of knowledge on the subject she will be covering throughout the novel. Feeling as if there will be no need to question her findings or conclusions (due to her vast educational background and the research she put in), the audience is much more susceptible and therefore predisposed to Ehrenreich’s arguments, making it easier for her to make her case.
Barbara also uses a heavy hand with the allusions in this section – “The whole thing would be a lot easier if I could just skate through it like Lily Tomlin in one of her waitressing skits, but I was raised by the absurd Booker T. Washingtonian precept that says: If you’re going to do something, do it well.” She tries to establish an emotional connection with the reader – it might have worked on me if I knew who Lily Tomlin was, though understandably she wrote this novel for a different age set – that explains a part of her good character. She shows ...


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...sed the reforms. This leaves the poor to essentially fend for themselves.
After reading this novel, I agree with her argument. Barbara tried to stick as close to the real life scenario as possible, but periodically she would fall back into her safety net; the women into whose shoes she pretends to step cannot. This goes to show that even when she “cheated” every once in a while – laptop still in tow, a bank account at her disposal in times of emergency, the tendency to switch cities once one becomes too much to handle– she had a difficult time managing to survive based on her wages alone, and so it must be that much harder for the people who do not have a fall-back plan. We all tend to blame the unemployment rate for poverty, and politicians are always trying to assuage the public by thinking of new proposals to reduce it, but the real culprit seems to be wages.




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