Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

The Transparency of Bias: Barbara Ehrenreich's Privileged, Compassionate Perspective 11th Grade

In Barbara Ehrenreich's investigative memoir Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Ehrenreich herself attempts to investigate whether minimum wage is truly a livable wage by taking up low-paying work in three different locations across America. Her answer, unsurprisingly, is no. Satirizing the often-corrupt employers she works under and developing humility through self-deprecation, Ehrenreich recounts her experiences with a sense of levity, largely free from a romanticized or pitiful portrayal of the poor. She does not, however, allow humor to overshadow the awfulness of poverty, honestly recounting her sense of fear, misery, and futility. This works to create a nuanced and human portrayal of the poor, which gives gravity to her argument for socioeconomic reform. Ehrenreich compounds this by echoing Marxist language and liberal sentiment throughout, rallying liberal support for change while also drawing connections between real poor experience and political agenda. By making her bias clear from the beginning and using Marxist language to build her narrative into an argument, Ehrenreich narrows her audience to those who already support a raise in the minimum wage as a policy. This allows Ehrenreich’s narrative to...

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