Ehlereich sets about her task drawing on the experiences she gained as she attempted to see for herself what life is like for America’s working poor.
Traveling to Florida, then to Maine, and finally to Minnesota, Ehlereich’s mission was to get by supporting herself with no other resources than the salary she received from working jobs requiring no special training or education, in other words, jobs for unskilled laborers.
Within American culture, it is common for those who enjoy such advantages as having a safe and comfortable place to live, access to medical services, and proper nutrition to believe that these are the just deserts of their hard work and determination.
The flip side of this common attitude is the idea that those who lack such things, the have-nots, are deprived due to their lack of motivation and resourcefulness.
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Educators go through a rigorous application process, and every answer they submit is reviewed by our in-house editorial team. It is important to note how Ehrenreich chose to put "not" in parentheses, and that choice on her part is directly related to her primary theme which is that it is virtually impossible to provide basic needs for one's self by working one minimum wage job.With the exception of those who are unable to work due to disability, those living in adverse conditions are generally not seen as deserving of sympathy from the more fortunate.In Barbara Ehlereich seeks to correct many such misconceptions about the bottom rungs of American society, and in particular, to make her readers aware of the obstacles that prevent even the most determined among the nation’s poor from achieving access to the lifestyle that most above them take for granted.Although she had planned to remain in each of the three locations on the itinerary for at least a month, Ehlereich acknowledges that she has been defeated by Key West; She simply lacks the physical stamina to do what unskilled laborers do just to survive.Another important observation Ehlereich makes in the course of her experiment is that in addition to earning low wages and living paycheck to paycheck, unskilled laborers are hit with extra costs for necessities such as rent and food.What is perhaps most astonishing of all in Nickel and Dimed, however, is the resignation expressed by those whom Ehlereich works beside.It raises an important question: if those in some of the higher echelons of society are able to recognize the injustice and exploitation evident in Ehlereich’s narrative, why are those who are subject to such treatment unable to recognize it as such?One of the first things Ehlereich noticed was that the availability of jobs for unskilled laborers was much smaller than one would be led to believe by the number of job openings advertised.After sending out dozens of applications and hearing nothing back, Ehlereich finally is offered a job as a waitress.Or if they do recognize it, why do they choose to grin and bear it?Such questions perhaps deserve further investigation of their own.