Barbara Ehrenreich employed the use of humor multiple times in Nickel and Dimed; it was perhaps her most frequently used rhetorical device. Ehrenreich was trying to portray the tragedy and heartbreak of the situation by using that sort of hopeless, sardonic humor. She also used her humor as a way to camouflage topics that would otherwise be off-limits. Although some of the humor included in the narrative may have seemed distasteful, it all had a purpose and was rarely used inappropriately.
The majority of her witty remarks were used in a sardonic way. This was to present the hopelessness of her situation. On page 109, Ehrenreich speaks of how unskilled her job really is. "But why complain about not being paid when those people at the Buddhist monastery pay with their own money to do the same kind of work?". Ehrenreich continues to sarcastically illustrate the hopelessness of her position on page 151 when she describes the hotels in which she is forced to stay in. "To say that some place is the worst motel in the country is, of course, to set oneself up for considerable challenge. I have encountered plenty of contenders in my own travels--the one in Cleveland that turned into a brothel at night, the one in Butte where the window looked out into another room. Still, the Clear view Inn leaves the competition in the dust." Her condescending and ridiculing tone leaves no doubt that she is using sarcasm to help paint a clearer picture. Humor turned out to be a very successful way in illustrating just how poor her living conditions were throughout her journey. Finally, on page 160, Ehrenreich continues on her sarcastic path. "Tonight, I had the ne sensation, Survivor, on CBS, where "real people" are struggling to light a fire on their desert island. Who are these nutcases who would volunteer for an artificially daunting situation in order to entertain millions of strangers with their half-assed efforts to survive? Then I remember where I am and why I am here." The last sentence adds a little cohesiveness to the situation. This humor tied loose-ends that the reader might now have fully grasped without it.
Ehrenreich knew that most audiences most easily connect with humor; therefore, she used it very frequently. This sarcasm not only keeps readers involved, but it also makes certain connections that they would not normally put together.
Barbara Ehrenreich often applied the use of humor as a camouflage for topics that would otherwise be off-limits. She understood that humor is the easiest way to get a point across without offending anyone. On page 92, she illustrates a rather vulgar part of her maid job. "Let's talk about shit, for example. It happens, as the bumper sticker says, and it happens to a cleaning person every day." This is definitely a subject that most readers may have found inappropriate; however, Ehrenreich's tone throughout the entire book camouflages the lewdness of the topic. Instead of just dropping the...