How does eviction affect Arleen in the book Evicted?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Eviction affects Arleen physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In his 2016 nonfiction novel Evicted, author Matthew Desmond follows eight families living in poverty in Milwaukee. One of these families consists of a woman named Arleen and her two sons, Jori and Jafaris. The three are evicted from their home because of damage done to their front door from a car that was chasing the boys. From the beginning, Arleen and her sons are victims.

Arleen is affected physically in that she has to move her family immediately into a shelter. Though the family is eventually offered their own place to stay from a social worker who intentionally rents to disadvantaged people, the effects on Arleen aren’t merely physical or inconvenient. They are emotionally and mentally debilitating.

Arleen began to receive benefits from the state for depression. Her son, Jafaris, began acting out. Both boys are struggling in school. Arleen can’t afford medications for herself or the boys. To make matters worse, Arleen’s sister dies, and Arleen has to scrape together funds for the funeral.

After a series of stays in shelters and a short-lived stint in an apartment, Arleen loses all of her possessions that are kept in storage, while her sons continue having problems in school and with the law.

The effects of eviction on Arleen cannot be overstated. The struggle and pain of living in poverty and trying to maintain a family (as well as her own mental health) completely consume her every thought and movement. The overall impression that we the readers have of Arleen is that she is the victim of a completely unfair system and that she is absolutely hopeless to escape it.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on