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“Serving in Florida” by Barbara Ehrenreich Report

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Updated: Oct 31st, 2021

Barbara’s Ehrenreich’s text ‘Serving in Florida’ can be described as effective in terms of defining the main problems of the American poor through the prism of the personal experience of the author. The whole text reveals Ehrenreich’s important and difficult experiences aimed at understanding and feeling life in almost inhumane conditions such as low wages and great moral and physical pressing.

Barbara ‘serves different professions’ in Florida including waitress, hotel worker, etc. where she communicates with people and finds out their main problems and anticipations. Most of Barbara’s coworkers work two jobs live in rented houses or even in cars. While working for an almost full week, these people can not afford to acquire housing at appropriate prices and often have other life problems.

This experience leads Barbara to the right conclusion that ‘minimum wage can not guarantee ‘livable’ conditions’ and that primary resources should be invested in education, which ensures future success.

Barbara comes across humiliation in the employment process, when she is demanded to answer doubtful questions and pass unnecessary tests. Her human dignity is nothing compared with the employer’s desire to receive profits.

Serving as a waitress in Hearthside restaurant, Barbara finds out that people living in poor conditions can be even more generous and friendly than rich ones. Gail, a waitress who trains Ehrenreich is a very responsible and caring person. Even though she is homeless and has to sleep in the truck without her boyfriend who was killed recently in prison, she still maintains normal human relations with other people and helps those who are in need.

Joan is another object of Barbara’s admiration. Joan raises children in the mobile house by herself and shows great generosity. For instance, she and other waitresses add extra portions of croutons in salads (however management allows only six). The generous attitude towards all the customers is formed by concerted efforts and Barbara quickly takes the same stance.

Barbara also gets the negative experience of low-wage working when she does not defend her Czechoslovakian coworker, who was accused of stealing something, however, he did not do this. Barbara has considerable difficulties formulating this phenomenon of hidden indecision, however, soon reveals that it is connected with difficult and tense psychological climate in low-wage collective and oppression of the management.

The main appeal Ehrenreich’s text contains is that low-wage work, which is so widespread in the modern United States has a negative consequence on many people, who lose their perspective and what is more important, a feeling of individual dignity, which is the primary precondition for democratic participation. Barbara’s conclusion may be summarized as follows: without appropriate wages and working conditions, the majority of American citizens can not guarantee their constitutional rights for normal living, not to say about the deep spiritual needs of every human being.

Ehrenreich’s audience may include different categories of people, ranging from policymakers, who can influence the distribution of power and resources in the American society, to ordinary poor, who have strong potential to change their life for the better. It should be noted, however, that Ehrenreich tries to show that the situation with poor workers can be properly addressed by American society.

But often unintentionally Ehrenreich appeals to more radical actions and this can be easily read over such passages as, “I could drift on like this, in some dreamy proletarian idyll” or “Not that managers and especially ‘assistant managers’ in low wage settings like this are exactly the class enemy.” From these passages, it is evident that Ehrenreich addresses her conclusions and personal experience to ordinary American poor, who may unite their efforts to fight for their civil and constitutional rights for the normal life.

It should be noted that Ehrenreich’s appeal is set up coherently and, what is more, important have strong emotional components. There is no denying the importance of the fact that the author is focused on forming the positive image of low-wage workers in her readers, which is achieved by depicting different practical situations which reveal their positive attitudes and features of the character.

Ehrenreich pays also specific attention to forming a comprehensive picture of these poor people’s living conditions, which serves as a basic logical argument for changing them for the better. Nothing can be more speaking of their sufferings as describing poor people’s daily routine at work and home. Joan’s and Gail’s problems which are carefully described by Ehrenreich help us understand their overall working conditions and show possible contours of change.

The author’s appeals are very effective in terms of creating a comprehensive picture of low-wage workers’ conditions and the possible ways of changing them for the better. Ehrenreich’s important contribution to these debates is based on helpful personal experience which was gained during her low-wage employment.

To sum it up, we have analyzed the basic appeals of Ehrenreich’s text, focused on their importance, emotional ramifications, logical content, and intended or unintended audience. We concluded, that notwithstanding some minor incoherence, Ehrenreich’s text contains quite valuable personal experience and facts, which can be used by activists making efforts at improving the lives of the American poor. This, however, can happen only in the case of deep understanding deep roots of poverty and its consequences.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Serving in Florida" by Barbara Ehrenreich." October 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/serving-in-florida-by-barbara-ehrenreich/.


IvyPanda. (2021) '"Serving in Florida" by Barbara Ehrenreich'. 31 October.

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