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Political Book Critique on Nickel and Dimed

America is considered as a country where people are leading a prosperous life. But this notion is limited to certain classes in the society. There are still numerous people, living in America, who are unable to fulfill even their basic needs. People who are surviving on low wages are leading a life which is in contrast to the one that is associated with America. It is the lives of these people which is exposed in the book “Nickel and Dimed, On Not Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich. She is a feminist who has contributed greatly to the field of sociology and politics.

As she is interested in bringing about positive changes in the society, she has authored the book “Nickel and Dimed, On Not Getting By in America”. Through this book she throws light on the plight of low wage earners in America so that people are aware of their sufferings and make efforts to alter their lives. I choose this book for it focuses on that class of American society which is neglected and ignored by the people. The Book The book depicts the conditions, in which these people are working and leading their lives. These conditions are experienced by the author herself as she takes the low-wage jobs.

In this book Ehrenreich aims to bring forth the larger realities in the lives of working poor in the U. S. The various problems faced by the low wage earners are presented by the author. “In her book we learn that the fresh-faced Wal-Mart employee who unloads our carts may well be sleeping in a car. America’s service economy may be all dressed up, but it has no place to go at night. ” (Daniel). The book is well-written and easy to understand, as the author has utilized a coherent style. The life of Barbara Ehrenreich as low wage earner is presented as a novel.

Thesis The book focuses on the relationship between employers and employees, belief that people are rewarded for hard work vs. the reality of working people are discussed in the book. When Ehrenreich works as waitresses, cleaner and nursing-home aide, she realizes that the relation that an employer shares with his/her employees lacks compassion. The employer is more concerned about his/her profits than the well-being of the employees. Ehrenreich experiences this attitude of the employers when she works as waitresses in various restaurants.

“According to the Fair Labor Standard Act, employers are not required to pay “tipped employees,” such as ……This fact was not mentioned by managers or otherwise publicized at either of the restaurants where I work. ” (Ehrenreich, pg. 16). The employers are exploiting their employees to fill their pockets. Such is the hold of employers on the employees that they give up their freedom and basic rights to survive in their jobs. “Ehrenreich says low-paid workers abandon democracy and human rights when they enter the totalitarian tyranny that is the domain of many employers.

” (Seabrook). The employers overlook the sufferings of the people who are working hard for them. Employees also detest their employers but they are compelled to work under them due to their circumstances. Although they are being exploited by their employers, the employees continue working for them as it is the only source of livelihood for them. Ehrenreich’s experiences of the callous attitude of the employers towards their employees, presents the larger realities in the lives of the working poor in the U. S. The working poor are treated in a deprecating manner by their employers.

The rules laid down by the government in the matter of wages are ignored by the employers. So the employees are deprived of a wage that is entitled to them legally. As the working poor are ignorant of the rules, the employers take advantage of their ignorance and pay them less amount. The belief that people are rewarded for hard work is proved wrong when Ehrenreich exposes the real situation of working poor. Ehrenreich herself works as a low-wage worker, although she works very hard, her pay is unable to cover even her basic needs.

“Working different jobs in restaurants, a hotel, a nursing home, a cleaning service, and at a major retailer Ehrenreich finds the truth – it is nearly impossible to match income and expense on wage income. ” (Spann). This is condition of all her co-workers, in spite of laboring for long hours; they are not able to afford proper housing and food. Some of the workers are forced to spend their nights in car, as their pay is inadequate for renting a house. The hard work of these people are never rewarded properly, on the contrary they are living in such pitiable conditions that they are not even able to fulfill their basic needs.

What Ehrenreich learns about hard work during her experience of working as waiters, cleaner and nursing home-aide, makes her to realize that hard work and high wages are not related to each other. In fact she discovers that in low-wage jobs, the people are working harder than people with highly paid jobs. Ehrenreich’s realization that hard work is not properly rewarded validates the real situation of working poor in the U. S. The lives of working poor are more miserable, as they are made to work hard in unfavorable conditions and their work is not remunerated according to their hard work.

I think the author succeeds in proving her thesis, for she provides an accurate portrayal of lives of these people who toil hard but are unable to maintain an average standard of living. “Nickel and Dimed exposes the anti-America of flophouses, multiple house sharing, employees sleeping in cars, and the homeless who work forty hours or more weekly. ” (Scott). The author provides examples and sufficient data to support her claim. Conclusion In her book “Nickel and Dimed, On Not Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich presents the stark realities of low wage earners.

The author is critical of the government, for ignoring the needs of this class of the American society. But she fails to provide any alternatives to improve the living conditions of these people. The author could have been benefitted if she had signed for Earned Income Tax Credit, for being a low wage earner she would have been eligible for this governmental program. The book aided in understanding the problems of the low wage earners. The wide gap that exists between the rich and poor in the American society is depicted through this book.

My attitude that the low wage earners are responsible for their condition is changed by this book. The book made me realize that these people worked hard, yet they were not remunerated accordingly, and this was the reason for their poverty Works Cited Daniel, Lillain. Nickel and Dimed. BNET. 1 August 2001. 4 April 2009. http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_22_118/ai_77435002/? tag=content;col1 Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel And Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America. Metropolitan Books. 2001. Seabrook, Jeremy.

Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in low-wage USA, by Barbara Ehrenreich. The Independent . 6 July 2002. 4 April 2009. http://www. independent. co. uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/nickel-and-dimed- undercover-in-lowwage-usa-by-barbara-ehrenreich-647273. html Scott, Joni. Nickel and Dimed: On Getting By in America – Not – Review. BNET. September 2001. 4 April 2009. Spann, Graham. A Book Review of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Sociation Today 1. 2 (2003) 1-2. 4 April 2009. http://www. ncsociology. org/sociationtoday/v2/nickel. htm

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