Saturday, 25 February 2012

Critique of Nickel and Dimed

The critique I found of Nickel and Dimed was actually on a personal finance blog. Overall the blog is seemingly positive and supportive of Ehrenreich's work but not of the "characters" that she discusses.

The author, Trent Hamm describes Nickel and Dimed as "a well written account of what life is like near the poverty line" and says it is a useful resource as "her experience teaches many useful lessons about the real meaning of what personal finance is" as mentioned before these are highly positive reviews of the book and shows that even though the book was initially set out to be an account of what the author experienced it is being used in other ways and is useful in these ways, which is something the author probably never expected.

Hamm, goes on to review each chapter in detail and say what can be learnt from it and what the most important points are. One of the things Hamm gets from the book is that "education is the most valuable investment you can make" and goes on to say "often her co-workers were single who simply chose to not even try not to better themselves." I would not agree with this point as I saw it more as they were not provided with the opportunity, they were seen in a negative way by the rest of society which has had an affect on the way they saw themselves. With this in mind they were therefore not able or confident enough to better themselves, and this in itself pushes away the idea of the American Dream and the concept of America being the land of the free.

Something that Hamm does focus on that Ehrenreich does not so much, is the traps the affluent leave out to try and catch the maids whilst they are at work in Maine. The distrust of these people when they are doing the affluent a service is quite shocking. Hamm then asks the question "how should people treat service industry workers?" he suggests that people should tip generously and expect that the quality of service you get is measured by how well you treat the person that is supplying that service. As I mentioned before this is something that the author does not really comment on as it is not the purpose of the book, the purpose of the book is to inform people of these issues and then like Hamm, make their own assumptions as to what can be done to help the situation.

Another aspect of the book that Hamm picks up on is classism. Again not directly picked up on by Ehrenreich in the book but nevertheless the idea is still there. Hamm states that through Ehrenreich's time at Walmart it is obvious that "classism exists in America." This is a bold statement to make as America generally prides itself on being a classless nation and has done since the Declaration of Independence in 1776 as a way of differentiating themselves from Europe and mainly Britain. He goes on to say that despite the book showing that classism exists in the States "the same old class biases were exposed" showing that this was nothing new to him or America itself.

In conclusion, I think Hamm is supportive of what Ehrenreich has done in exposing just how tough it is in a low income household and how worrying it is that minimum wage in the U.S is not high enough to maintain a suitable lifestyle. However, he seems to have a very negative attitude towards the "characters" in the book and focusses on how they have not tried to better themselves. He seems to ignore the impact society has on these people and the effects of the judgements society makes.

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