What is the author's tone in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America?

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Author Barbara Ehrenreich wrote Nickel and Dimed - On (Not) Getting by in America as a first person account of her experiences living and working under minimum wage circumstances. Her tone is very factual and straightforward as she relates the challenges, successes and failures she encounters while attempting to work and live based on the wages and living expenses required by varied jobs in different parts of the country. Footnotes provide factual information to support her observations and to add background statistics related to her experiences. She is non-judgmental in her writing, reporting what she sees, hears and does without criticizing or approving of choices made by her peers in the workplace or living conditions. Her concern with some of the consequences of those choices is expressed.

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teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

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Ehrenreich uses a detached journalistic tone in this investigative work. In it, she documents her experiences in a variety of low-wage jobs. She depicts in detail how she tries to survive economically and psychologically at the bottom end of the working strata of society. Her anger, however, breaks through on behalf of working people: Ehrenreich is unequivocally on their side. She attempts to puncture false pieties, getting angry, for instance, when a co-worker is coached by her supervisor to "work through the pain" when she gets injured while cleaning a house or wondering why lower end workers are told to report for work without actually being made a formal job offer. By using a detached tone along with vivid, detailed descriptions of what her life is like as a waitress, a Walmart employee and a maid, Ehrenreich allows  readers to feel the humiliation and unfairness of life at the low end of the job spectrum.

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beateach | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The author’s tone in Nickel and Dimed - On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich is that of an investigative reporter. She sees the struggles of the underemployed and underpaid, and she reports in a straight forward and factual manner about their lives and those of their children. That is until she experiences working at low paying, highly labor intensive jobs. In those instances, her anger and exasperation are evident. She says.

I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that "hard work" was the secret of success: "Work hard and you'll get ahead" or "It's hard work that got us where we are." No one ever said that you could work hard - harder even than you ever thought possible - and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.

At times, the author's tone is cynical. Ehrenreich says, “What you don't necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you're actually selling is your life.” She expounds upon how the working poor have become invisible in society. So much so that when watching television at night, the plight of the working poor is not evident. Even sitcoms and reality shows are about people who are gainfully employed, and not by the hour, they are salaried workers or entrepreneurs who depend on the working poor over and over again to maintain their lifestyles.


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