By: Gordon Parks
What is absolute poverty? Here in the United States, I don’t think that we have an idea of that concept. In this country, we have what is called the “poverty line.” This is a measure of poverty by our sociological standards. In the great scheme of things, however, is that really poverty compared to other places in the world? I think not.
Flavio’s Home is an essay taken from the autobiography of Gordon Parks, a photographer for Life magazine. In it, Parks illuminates the appalling poverty within Catacumbia, a favela (Brazilian Portuguese for slum) on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Parks experienced the squalid conditions and attitude of the people while interacting with one boy, Flavio da Silva, and his family. Parks’ in-depth observation of the deplorable conditions in this shantytown paints a stunning picture of absolute poverty in one of the poorest areas of the world.
Parks comes upon Flavio as the boy is fetching water for his family. His assignment is to highlight the life of an impoverished father, but when he sees Flavio, he knows that he can learn much more about the poverty in the region from this boy. Parks uses a narrative rhetorical strategy to convey the plight of the family. He relays an account of their daily struggles, family dynamics, and the health issues caused by starvation. In this selection, their living conditions are painted in an appalling light. When he describes the scene, and how the family interacts on an interpersonal level, I can sense their desperation coming through the page. At some points, they seem to be extremely agitated with one another, as in the part where Maria dips a spoonful of beans out of the pot, and Luzia says that she’s going to tell on her for stealing. Parks uses very emotional language in this article, and I sense from his writing that he detests poverty and the issues that cause it. The apathy of Flavio’s father is...
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