In the book Nickel and Dimed on (Not) getting by in America, the author lived a life of a low wage worker. This experiment, while deemed insightful by some people, was considered dull and unrealistic to one of my classmates. In response to the question, “What parts of the book made Ehrenreich’s experience unrealistic? ” my peer said, “She didn’t experience what low wage workers really went through. In Into the Wild, McCandless really went into the wild and experienced everything, but Ehrenreich didn’t live a poor life.
If she had done that it would have made for a much more interesting book. ” I agree with my classmate on this comment because while I did learn about some struggles that low wage workers have to go through, I didn’t learn what the working poor do when they can’t pay the rent anymore or how they deal with injuries and sicknesses when they can’t afford to go to the doctor. These are all struggles that I would have liked to learn more about, but I couldn’t because when a situation like that would occur, Ehrenreich would just buy herself out of it.
Ehrenreich wanted to show people what life was like for the working poor, but she didn’t do it accurately because the working poor don’t have emergency money or a car to commute around from place to place to look for a better job. If Ehrenreich went through the struggles that the working poor go through, then the book would have not only been more interesting, but much more informative too. The overall theme of all four books that we read is rejecting society’s flaws. All the books explored this theme because each character had a conflict with what society was doing or saying.
In Huckleberry Finn, Huck ran away from home because he didn’t want to live with his abusive father and he also didn’t want to be civilized by the widow. Throughout the book, Huck has trouble fitting in with society and abiding by what they say, because he doesn’t agree with slavery. In the novel, Into the Wild, Chris McCandless lived a nomadic life because he wanted to get away from the worldly things that everyone is caught up on, and he wanted to experience the beauty of nature instead. Another book that we read that shared the same theme was Rebels by Accident.
In the book, Mariam is sent to Egypt by her parents in order for her to be more disciplined. Leaving the United States allows Mariam to accept her culture because she is not influenced by the stigma towards Middle Easterners and Muslims in the United States. Lastly, in Nickel and Dimed on (not) getting by in America, the author, Ehrenreich, wanted to see how conditions have improved for low wage workers after the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. She wanted to know how these people are able to live off of low paying jobs.
She concludes the book, by expressing her opinion that the United States could do more to help the working poor. She expresses this idea when she said, “Maybe, as so many Americans seem to believe today, we can’t afford the kind of public programs that would genuinely alleviate poverty—-though I would argue otherwise. ” (Dunn, 238). In all the books, none of the characters changed society, but they all put themselves in difficult situations, and then learned about the world’s flaws, and how to separate oneself from them.
The problem with the book Nickel and Dimed is that Ehrenreich is ignorant. It wasn’t just because she started her experiment with her rules and limitations, thinking that she would get by easily, but even at the end of the book she acts as if she has a real understanding of what a low wage workers life is really like. Maybe she does understand a little bit, but she doesn’t have the full picture of that kind of life. This is what takes away from the theme and makes the book less interesting that the other three books.
Yes, she is not content with the way this problem is being handled in this country, and yes, she put herself in difficult situations, but her experience was a distorted version of the harsh truth, unlike in the other books. She has no idea how the average person finds a job when the economy isn’t stable or how constantly working difficult jobs affects their mental health. When things got difficult she had the option of going back home, but people don’t actually have that option in real life. If she had written about these things, and continued her experiment longer, then her evaluation of her whole experiment would have been more valid.
I’m not saying that I disagree with her evaluation because coming from a family where everyone is a lower class citizen, I do believe there could be more programs to help the poor, but feel that since she didn’t fully experience what it was like, she can’t speak as much about it and use her experience to educate other people that don’t know what it’s like to be a lower class ckel and Dimed could have been a lot more interesting if the author went through the struggles that most low wage workers have to go through.
An example of this is when Ehrenreich went to the doctors for a rash that she got when she was working in Portland, Maine as a maid. In the book she describes her experience with the rash when she said, “The itching gets so bad at night that I have mini tantrums, waving my arms and stamping my feet to keep from scratching or bawling. So I fall back on the support networks of my real life social class, call the dermatologist I know in Key West. ” (Dunn, 88) If the author didn’t call her dermatologist and suffered through the rash, the chapter would have been more thought provoking.
It would catch readers’ attention to see what would have happened over time to her health. Another event that the author could have done differently to make the book interesting was when she decided to not get her other job at the hardware store in Minneapolis. If she would have worked there and at Walmart, then we would have seen her struggle with the two jobs. Seeing the author taking on all this work makes reader’s curious and anxious to read more, but knowing that she always had a way out bored me and my classmate at certain parts of the book. This book was not only dull, but it wasn’t realistic.
The purpose of this book was to educate people about the life of low wage workers, but how can the purpose be displayed in the book when the author does not live an accurate and realistic life of a low wage worker. She had limits and rules when she started this experiment. The rules were ways for her to survive as a low wage worker and the limits she had was to know when to stop this experiment. In the novel she said, “Finally, I set some reassuring limits to whatever tribulations I might have to endure. ” (Dunn, 5) Any lower class citizen is not going to have limits and rules to survive.
For Ehrenreich she could drive to another place to get a job or just end the experiment whenever she felt like it, but in real life a low-wage worker doesn’t have that resource or option. I understand that the author just wanted to see if she could find a job and pay a second month’s rent; however, she didn’t accurately depict the sacrifices people make in order to do that. The author called it quits when things became too problematic for her, therefore she wasn’t informing the world and herself on how people survive the rest of their life without being able to give up.
The author’s imitation of a low wage workers life takes away from the authenticity of what these people really have to go through. Poor people don’t have rules or guidelines. Their life, and even middle or upper class people’s life, are unplanned events that don’t go the way we want them to. We don’t have limits to say, ‘okay, this is too challenging so I’m going to quit my job’. That is why it doesn’t make sense to me that the author believed that she could get a thorough understanding on how people are able to live their life with jobs that only pay six or seven dollars an hour, with a false representation of their life.
The novel, Nickel and Dimed on (Not) getting by in America, was good and at times it was insightful, but overall it didn’t strongly portray the theme and it lacked pizazz. There is a huge difference from living life as a low wage worker and imitating it the way Ehrenreich did. I don’t think she really understood that; for that reason I believe that this book was not as remarkable as the other three books that we read over the summer.