Nickel And Dimed By Barbara Ehrenreich: A Look At Social Immobility In America

1018 words - 4 pages

"For the first time in our history it is possible to conquer poverty."- Lyndon B. Johnson, March 16, 1964The American Dream is an idea that many Americans hold dear. It is the idea that no matter what hand you are dealt, you can improve your life through hard work and determination. A working class person may believe that they can achieve social mobility, and move up in class standing by working hard and contributing their efforts to our capitalist society, when in fact that same system is keeping them down.Placement in our current economic system is a very important factor that determines life chances. It is said that we live in a class system, where status is achieved, but the book Nickel and Dimed attempts to display our society as a caste system, where status is ascribed to individuals. Barbara Ehrenreich displays that there are many avenues in life that are simply not open to the poor. She also shows that even after hard work and obedience to management the chance to move up in class standing is very rare.The first example of this that was apparent in Nickel and Dimed is that for a single woman to simply pay for decent housing and food she must work more than one job. This is because the cost of living has increased and the wages of low-end workers have not. How are people expected to achieve upward social mobility if they spend all of their waking hours working? How are they supposed to get an education to improve their lot? It has been said that education is "the great equalizer", but the fact is that education is just not available for everyone in our society.There are also many hidden charges for the poor described in Nickel and Dimed. If you cannot pay for the deposit for an apartment, you have to pay more money by paying by the week. You cannot save money by cooking large amounts of food at one time and freezing it, because you do not have the capabilities to cook in large amounts. You end up paying for expensive fast food meals. Since the government in most cases, does not offer enough help for medical care, you cannot pay for regular check-ups and physicals. This presents a new problem, because any conditions you might have had with your health go undetected and become worse. All these factors combine to contribute to the poverty of already poor people.Once in Maine, Ehrenreich is exposed to some of the values that keep the poor down in society. One of them is obedience. She takes an opinion survey at a prospective place of employment, and realizes that almost anybody would be able to guess what the answer that management was looking for was. She observes that these surveys are more to tell they employee something about the employer, rather than the other way around. This survey seems like it is made to set up the groundwork for obedience to management, and there is more of this zombie-like obedience all around...

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