In Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, analyze the diction of the chapter "Serving in Florida."

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed is a 2001 book on the state of the working poor in America, and their ability to "(not) get by." Ehrenreich pretended to be a poor person to see if she could subsist on a working wage; she decided that it was all but impossible.

"Serving in Florida" is the first section of the book, where Ehrenreich draws on her experience as a waitress to work for a diner. Throughout the chapter, Ehrenreich is subtly contemptuous of the people around her, even as she strives to empathize with their plight: is a shock to realize that "trailer trash" has become, for me, a demographic category to aspire to... [I choose] a cabin, more or less, set in the swampy backyard of the converted mobile home where my landlord, an affable TV repairman, lives with his bartender girlfriend. Anthropologically speaking, the trailer park would be preferable...
(Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed, Google Books)

Ehrenreich tries hard to become the character of a working poor person, but cannot get past her real identity:

At least Gail puts to rest any fears I had of appearing overqualified... in my writing life, I at least have some notion of procedure... as a server, though, I am beset by requests as if by bees.
(Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed, Google Books)

She is ever-conscious that she is playing a part, and the reader gets the idea that even as she ran between tables she wasn't ever truly engaged. Every line is broken up with introspection of Eherenreich's real life and her comfortable standard of living; with constant reminders that she is pretending, immersion in the story and the real-life plight of the working poor is difficult.

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