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Difference between revisions of "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America"

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{{Infobox Book  
 
{{Infobox Book  
| name          = Nickel and Dimed
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| name          = Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
 
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| title_orig    =  
 
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Barbara Ehrenreich’s non-fiction bestseller, Nickel and Dimed, is the story of an essay writer who went undercover as a low wage worker to find out how non-skilled workers make ends meet. The experiment took place in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, with the author finding a job and lodgings in each location. The experiment was held for one month in each location, working full time and living only off the amount of money earned in low-wage jobs. The goal was to determine whether or not the author could both live off the money earned and have enough money at the end of the month to pay the next month’s rent.  
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Barbara Ehrenreich’s non-fiction bestseller, ''Nickel and Dimed'', is the story of an essay writer who went undercover as a low wage worker to find out how non-skilled workers make ends meet. The experiment took place in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, with the author finding a job and lodgings in each location. The experiment was to be held for one month in each location, working full time and living only off the amount of money earned in low-wage jobs. The goal was to determine whether or not the author could both live off the money earned and have enough money at the end of the month to pay the next month’s rent.  
  
 
The first city chosen was Key West, Florida, due to the proximity to her home. Ehrenreich gets a job as a waitress in a diner-style restaurant, and finds a trailer to rent nearby. The income she receives from waiting tables is not enough to support her and to pay the next installment of rent, and Ehrenreich takes on a second job working as a hotel maid. The two jobs become too physically demanding for her to continue, and she vacates the maid position after one day. The waitress position becomes increasingly difficult as well, and Ehrenreich leaves the job before the month has been completed.   
 
The first city chosen was Key West, Florida, due to the proximity to her home. Ehrenreich gets a job as a waitress in a diner-style restaurant, and finds a trailer to rent nearby. The income she receives from waiting tables is not enough to support her and to pay the next installment of rent, and Ehrenreich takes on a second job working as a hotel maid. The two jobs become too physically demanding for her to continue, and she vacates the maid position after one day. The waitress position becomes increasingly difficult as well, and Ehrenreich leaves the job before the month has been completed.   
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==Characters ==
 
==Characters ==
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All of the minor characters in the book had their names changed by the author to protect their privacy.
 
*'''Barbara Ehrenreich''' - As a non-fiction narrative, the author was the main character of the book, conceiving and carrying out the low-wage experiments. Ehrenreich kept her real name while applying for jobs, though she did not reveal her Ph.D. in biology, nor her background as a writer.   
 
*'''Barbara Ehrenreich''' - As a non-fiction narrative, the author was the main character of the book, conceiving and carrying out the low-wage experiments. Ehrenreich kept her real name while applying for jobs, though she did not reveal her Ph.D. in biology, nor her background as a writer.   
*'''B.J.'''- All of the minor characters, including B.J., had their names changed by the author to protect their privacy. B.J. was a manager at the first job Ehrenreich took during the experiment, at a restaurant in Key West.  
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*'''B.J.''' - B.J. was a manager at the first job Ehrenreich took during the experiment, at a restaurant in Key West.  
*'''George'''- George was a dishwasher in the Key West Restaurant. An immigrant from Czechoslovakia, George spoke little English and had trouble understanding the problems that were happening in the restaurant around him. He was eventually accused of stealing from the restaurant and fired without understanding the reason.  
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*'''George''' - George was a dishwasher in the Key West Restaurant. An immigrant from Czechoslovakia, George spoke little English and had trouble understanding the problems that were happening in the restaurant around him. He was eventually accused of stealing from the restaurant and fired without understanding the reason.  
*'''Ted'''- Ted is the manager of The Maids, a housekeeping service in Maine that Ehrenreich joins. Ted attempts to get Ehrenreich to tell him about any employees who have been complaining about their jobs. Ehrenreich believes that many of the women working for The Maids are doing so to gain Ted’s approval.  
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*'''Ted''' - Ted is the manager of The Maids, a housekeeping service in Maine that Ehrenreich joins. Ted attempts to get Ehrenreich to tell him about any employees who have been complaining about their jobs. Ehrenreich believes that many of the women working for The Maids are doing so to gain Ted’s approval.  
*'''Holly'''- Holly is a maid who works with Ehrenreich in Maine. She discovers she is pregnant during the month Ehrenreich is there, and suffers from dizzy spells and nausea. During one house cleaning she twists her ankle and walks with a limp afterward.  
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*'''Holly''' - Holly is a maid who works with Ehrenreich in Maine. She discovers she is pregnant during the month Ehrenreich is there, and suffers from dizzy spells and nausea. During one house cleaning she twists her ankle and walks with a limp afterward.  
*'''Marge'''- A maid from Maine who suffers from arthritis, Marge is regularly paired with Holly and Ehrenreich for house cleaning assignments.  
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*'''Marge''' - A maid from Maine who suffers from arthritis, Marge is regularly paired with Holly and Ehrenreich for house cleaning assignments.  
*'''Melissa'''- An employee of a Wal-Mart in Minneapolis, Melissa works with Ehrenreich sorting clothing. She quits her job when Ehrenreich does, saying that she doesn’t want to work there without her.  
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*'''Melissa''' - An employee of a Wal-Mart in Minneapolis, Melissa works with Ehrenreich sorting clothing. She quits her job when Ehrenreich does, saying that she doesn’t want to work there without her.  
*'''Howard'''- Howard is the assistant manager at the Minneapolis Wal-Mart. He conducts regular meetings for all employees in order to discuss emergency scenarios and to warn them not to talk to each other.
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*'''Howard''' - Howard is the assistant manager at the Minneapolis Wal-Mart. He conducts regular meetings for all employees in order to discuss emergency scenarios and to warn them not to talk to each other.
  
 
==Chapters==
 
==Chapters==
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===Introduction: Getting Ready ===
 
===Introduction: Getting Ready ===
 
In the introduction, Ehrenreich describes her real life as a writer with a Ph.D. in biology and an upper middle class home and life. On the advice of Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham, Ehrenreich decides to take on an experiment to show the world what it’s really like to live as an unskilled, low-wage worker. To do this, she tries to survive in a variety of different settings, choosing three very different cities and finds a job and a place to live in each. She attempts to live only on the money she makes at whatever job she finds, though she makes the decision not to go hungry and to use a credit card if absolutely necessary. She brings enough money to get set up in an apartment or other dwelling, about $1,300. She attempts to find lodgings that she could sustain only with the money coming in from a job.  
 
In the introduction, Ehrenreich describes her real life as a writer with a Ph.D. in biology and an upper middle class home and life. On the advice of Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham, Ehrenreich decides to take on an experiment to show the world what it’s really like to live as an unskilled, low-wage worker. To do this, she tries to survive in a variety of different settings, choosing three very different cities and finds a job and a place to live in each. She attempts to live only on the money she makes at whatever job she finds, though she makes the decision not to go hungry and to use a credit card if absolutely necessary. She brings enough money to get set up in an apartment or other dwelling, about $1,300. She attempts to find lodgings that she could sustain only with the money coming in from a job.  
 
  
 
===Chapter 1: Serving in Florida ===
 
===Chapter 1: Serving in Florida ===
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Worried about being too overqualified for the job, she then feels underqualified as the job is revealed as being difficult and physically demanding. Ehrenreich finds the manager, B.J., difficult to work with, contributing to her many problems on the job. Another is George, a Czech dishwasher in the country for one week and unable to speak more than a few sentences in English. Ehrenreich decides to use her free time while at work to teach George English. After management discovers that a few items have gone missing, George is a suspect in the theft. The stolen items are never revealed by management, and Ehrenreich is convinced that George is innocent. Upper management decides to fire George, but to allow him to work until the end of the week. George is unaware of the problem because of the language barrier, and Ehrenreich grows increasingly upset over the situation.   
 
Worried about being too overqualified for the job, she then feels underqualified as the job is revealed as being difficult and physically demanding. Ehrenreich finds the manager, B.J., difficult to work with, contributing to her many problems on the job. Another is George, a Czech dishwasher in the country for one week and unable to speak more than a few sentences in English. Ehrenreich decides to use her free time while at work to teach George English. After management discovers that a few items have gone missing, George is a suspect in the theft. The stolen items are never revealed by management, and Ehrenreich is convinced that George is innocent. Upper management decides to fire George, but to allow him to work until the end of the week. George is unaware of the problem because of the language barrier, and Ehrenreich grows increasingly upset over the situation.   
  
Combined with the problems with co-workers, Ehrenreich also has problems finding affordable housing. She finds a trailer to live in, and is satisfied that it is safe enough for her purposes, though she is unsure if she will be able to maintain it on her waitressing income. Ehrenreich decides to take on a second job, and the hotel that adjoins the restaurant is hiring housekeepers. Ehrenreich decides to check on the second job, as it is the only way she will be able to stay in her trailer. After one day of completing both jobs, Ehrenreich quits the housekeeping position. She is also becoming increasingly upset about the situations going on at the restaurant. After a particularly difficult day, Ehrenreich decides she will be quitting soon, and will give her tips to George. But she quit before she expected to, as a slew of difficult customers convinced her to quit her job mid-shift and with no notice.  She walked out forgetting to give George her tips, leaving her with feelings of guilt.  
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Combined with the problems with co-workers, Ehrenreich also has problems finding affordable housing. She finds a trailer to live in, and is satisfied that it is safe enough for her purposes, though she is unsure if she will be able to maintain it on her waitressing income. Ehrenreich decides to take on a second job, and the hotel that adjoins the restaurant is hiring housekeepers. Ehrenreich decides to take the second job, as it is the only way she will be able to stay in her trailer. After one day of completing both jobs, Ehrenreich quits the housekeeping position. She is also becoming increasingly upset about the situations going on at the restaurant. After a particularly difficult day, Ehrenreich decides she will be quitting soon, and will give her tips to George. But she quit before she expected to, as a slew of difficult customers convinced her to quit her job mid-shift and with no notice.  She walked out forgetting to give George her tips, leaving her with feelings of guilt.  
  
 
The waitressing position lasted only two weeks, instead of the planned four weeks, and Ehrenreich did not believe she would have been able to make the next months rent on the trailer had she stayed in either job.
 
The waitressing position lasted only two weeks, instead of the planned four weeks, and Ehrenreich did not believe she would have been able to make the next months rent on the trailer had she stayed in either job.
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But during that week, working for a housekeeping company gets more and more difficult for her, both physically and mentally. Ted, the boss, is strict with the women who work for him and keeps them to a rigid schedule that they must adhere to. The schedule makes it difficult for any of the women to have a lunch break, and a low wages means that most of them don't have lunch to bring. They spend most of their lunch breaks and picking up a few items, such as potato chips, at a local convenience store and eating it in the car.  
 
But during that week, working for a housekeeping company gets more and more difficult for her, both physically and mentally. Ted, the boss, is strict with the women who work for him and keeps them to a rigid schedule that they must adhere to. The schedule makes it difficult for any of the women to have a lunch break, and a low wages means that most of them don't have lunch to bring. They spend most of their lunch breaks and picking up a few items, such as potato chips, at a local convenience store and eating it in the car.  
  
There are two housekeepers that Ehrenreich works with often- Marge and Holly. Marge is an older woman with arthritis, making it difficult for her to perform her housekeeping functions.  Marge teaches Ehrenreich about the different pain medications that can help with the physical pain caused by performing the housekeeping duties. The job Ehrenreich finds the most difficult is vacuuming. The company has its own vacuum that is worn on the back like a backpack, causing back pain to anyone using it.  Some of the older women are unable to vacuum because of the difficulty of it, and one woman is paid less because she is unable to use the vacuum cleaner.
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There are two housekeepers that Ehrenreich works with often- Marge and Holly. Marge teaches Ehrenreich about the different pain medications that can help with the physical pain caused by performing the housekeeping duties. The job Ehrenreich finds the most difficult is vacuuming. The company has its own vacuum that is worn on the back like a backpack.  Some of the older women are unable to vacuum because of the difficulty of wearing it so.
 
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Holly is a young woman who has been with the company's long enough to be the supervisor of Ehrenreich’s group.  During one day of work she twists her ankle and is unable to walk without pain. She refuses to see a doctor but instead wants to finish their day's work. During the course of Ehrenreich’s month with the company, Holly finds out she is pregnant. The other women discover her condition because of her nausea and dizziness. She is vague when they ask her whether she is pregnant, not wanting to miss any work or to be treated differently. Ehrenreich calls for a work stoppage to protest Holly’s fear of missing work. But as no one else will join her in the stoppage, she eventually pitches in and cleans the house. After complaining to Ted, he gives Holly a day off to seek medical treatment. Upon leaving her housekeeping job, she reveals her true reason for having each job, and is not met with the surprise she had expected.
Holly is a younger woman who has been with the company's long enough to be the supervisor of Ehrenreich’s group. During the course of Ehrenreich’s month with the company, Holly finds out she is pregnant. The other women discover her condition because of her nausea and dizziness. She is vague when they ask her whether she is pregnant, not wanting to miss any work or to be treated differently. During one housekeeping session she twists her ankle and is unable to walk without pain. She refuses to see a doctor but instead wants to finish their day's work. Ehrenreich calls for a work stoppage to protest Holly’s fear of missing work. But as no one else will join her in the stoppage, she eventually pitches in and cleans the house. After complaining to Ted, he gives Holly a day off to seek medical treatment. Upon leaving her housekeeping job, she reveals her true reason for having each job, and is not met with the surprise she had expected.
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===Chapter 3: Selling in Minnesota ===
 
===Chapter 3: Selling in Minnesota ===
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Howard, the assistant manager, is a person Ehrenreich finds difficult work for and an enemy of the employees. His regular meetings seem pointless to her, and only feed into the monotony. The one bright spot of her days is Melissa, who works alongside her in ladies department. She and Melissa think up new jobs to do so that they can do them together. When Ehrenreich eventually leaves at the end of the month, Melissa decides to quit to rather than work at the Wal-Mart without her.  
 
Howard, the assistant manager, is a person Ehrenreich finds difficult work for and an enemy of the employees. His regular meetings seem pointless to her, and only feed into the monotony. The one bright spot of her days is Melissa, who works alongside her in ladies department. She and Melissa think up new jobs to do so that they can do them together. When Ehrenreich eventually leaves at the end of the month, Melissa decides to quit to rather than work at the Wal-Mart without her.  
 
  
 
===Chapter 4: Evaluation ===
 
===Chapter 4: Evaluation ===
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==External Links==
 
==External Links==
*[http://www.enotes.com/nickel-dimed-not-getting-by-america Nickel and Dimed Summary and Study Guide]
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*[http://www.enotes.com/topics/nickel-dimed-not-getting-by-america/summary Nickel and Dimed Summary]
  
  

Latest revision as of 13:31, 21 October 2017