Nickel and Dimed Analysis

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Ed Fleming
Rhetorical Analysis Paper
English 102 Thurs Hybrid

In Barbara Ehrenreich's book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by In America" we read about a middle aged journalist undertaking a social experiment of the greatest magnitude. The journalist is Ehrenreich herself and the experiment was to find out how a woman, recently removed from welfare, due to policy reform, would make it on a six or seven dollar an hour wage. The experiment itself started out as just a question in the middle of lunch with one of Ehrenreich's editors, it soon turned into a job assignment. Before starting the experiment, Ehrenreich laid out some ground rules for her to follow during the duration of the assignment. First she could never use her college degree, or other work experience to land a job. Second, she had to take the highest paying job that was offered to her, and do whatever she could to hold it. This means not quitting a job, no matter how grueling the work place environment was. Third, she had to find the cheapest living conditions she could find, with reasonable respect paid to personal safety, and basic privacy. Also before starting out Ehrenreich was sure to point out that while she did try to adhere to the rules as best she could, there was minor rule bending and occasionally rule breaking. The final problem Ehrenreich worked out before embarking on this journey, is how to market herself to the people she was about to work for and with. She decided to go with a cover story that was more of a succinct version of who she really is. While it is true that she is a divorced wife, it is untrue that she has not been employed over the past few years. This was required to keep from receiving preferential treatment, and to prevent her test environment from becoming tainted. Ehrenreich decided that since she already lived in Florida she might as well start there with her experiment, moving to nearby Key West, Florida. She shares in the opening that she is scared that a neighbor or outgoing business owner will discover who she really is, causing her to have to explain what she is doing. She soon realizes though that there is no need to worry, because she is barely noticed on her travels, let alone "discovered" by an acquaintance. The First priority she sets for herself is securing some type of living arrangement. She Budgets about 500 dollars a month for rent, on the basis that she will be able to find work that will pay around seven dollars an hour. Because of where she is hunting for housing, her housing choices are rapidly reduced, due to the low price range she plans to live in. The first place she finds close to her price range in Key West is a small broken down trailer, lacking air-conditioning, screens, and no fans. This Squalor still proves to be to expensive for her budget, and Ehrenreich is forced to move thirty miles up the road to a 500 dollar a month cottage like efficiency. The only real problem with this new "home" is it is a forty-five minute drive down a highway to get back to Key West, meaning even more of her scarce money will be devoted to travel expenses. After finding herself a place to live, Ehrenreich moves onto the next task of actually securing employment. Ehrenreich starts out with a list of jobs she will not, or cannot do, due to physical conditions or potential of being isolated, causing the part of the experiment, which is to observe and learn from fellow working poor, to be voided. Ehrenreich finds her first hit in the job market at a local Winn-Dixie. She successfully completes the job application and computer interview, and seems well on her way to her "first job" until she realizes she would be required to take a drug test. Because she views this as a degrading way to have to gain a job that pays the bare minimum, she decides to continue her job search else where. Three days end up passing before she ends up finding another job lead. In this time she finds out that...
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