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Madarang, 1

Alex Madarang (815206971)

Lecturer Sager
RWS 280/Section 30
5 February 2014
In the chapter, Selling in Minnesota, from her book, Nickel & Dimed: On
(Not) Getting By in America (2001), feminist and award-winning columnist Barbara
Ehrenreich argues that unskilled Americans, especially single mothers on welfare,
are not able to afford the most basic necessities while working a minimum wage job
without the assistance of another person or federal agency. With sarcasm
permeating her writing, she validates this claim by her use of ethos when providing
firsthand experiences of her hardships while living as a working class, single woman
surviving on a minimum wage paycheck searching for a job and an apartment,
applying pathos when describing the mental and physical tolls of finding and
maintaining a job and a place of residence, and utilizing logos by presenting
statistical data that proves minimum wage jobs to be insufficient when compared to
the costs of living. Ehrenreichs purpose is to give insight on Ehrenreichs purpose is
to answer the question, how does anyone live on the wages available to the
unskilled? in order to bring awareness to the effects that the, then current, welfare
reform will have on the unskilled sector of American society. With a cynical yet
humble tone, she reaches out to people who have yet to immerse themselves into
the real world as well as congressman, policymakers and anyone else who could
change the current conditions of the lower-middle class.
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In this paper I will examine the authors claims and the notions that she
challenges with her first-hand experiences throughout the chapter. Next, I will tie in
the rhetorical strategies, such as ethos, pathos, and logos, which she utilizes in
attempt to strengthen her claims and draw in her audience. In addition, I will
discuss her use of allusions, as well as her tone throughout the text, in order to
create a better understanding and provide a more in-depth explanation of the issues
Barbara Ehrenreich was trying to bring about attention. Lastly, I will discuss how
her story and its claims are relevant to the present day economy in the United
In an attempt to build on her main argument, Ehrenreich sets out to test
various claims while immersing herself in the everyday life of a low-wage worker.
She asserts that the lack of affordable housing on the market, as well as the ways in
which corporations exploit their workers while nickel and diming them along the
way, makes it increasingly more difficult to live the comfortable life that many claim
the middle class is capable of having. In addition to the financial hardships that
come with minimum wage jobs, she argues that the poor treatment of workers by
corporations and their customers not only hinders the morale of the workplace, but
is also detrimental to the individual workers mental health and well-being.
In support of her claims, she denounces many of the preconceived notions
that Americans hold against the lower-middle class. From the start of her essay, she
quickly realizes from her own experiences that low wage employees are far from
being lazy and that even with constant hard work and determination things
oftentimes dont pan out the way one would hope. Although she might have had her
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own expectations of what life was like working and living on a minimum wage
paycheck, Ehrenreich soon realizes that even with certain qualifications it is not
easy getting a job in retail.