Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America Questions and Answers

Barbara Ehrenreich

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America questions.

How does Ehrenreich respond to the plight of the working poor?

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 one of cynicism. 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.