Introduction: Getting Ready
1) Why had Barbara Ehrenreich avoided "run of the mill low paid job[s]" in the past?
2) Why does Ehrenreich deny herself the skills her education has afforded her in seeking employment?
What rules does she set up?
- Ehrenreich believes "there's no way [she] was going to "experience poverty'"(6). How can she say this, given that she fully plans to force herself to eat, sleep, and get by on the money she earns from minimum wage jobs?
What do you think of the "reassuring limits" she puts on any impending hardship she'll encounter?
4) What advantages does Ehrenreich have that she believe mean that she has "everything going for her" (7) in terms of her chances for meeting with success in living on the minimum wage? Do these advantages matter as much as she thinks they do, in your opinion?
- The general response of Ehrenreich's coworkers in the course of the three individual tests she makes of living on the minimum wage is to find what she is doing unremarkable and "anticlimactic": "My favorite response [was], "Does this mean you're not going to be back next week?'"(9). What does such a response show us about these co-workers? Why do they not find her adventure compelling, given that their very lives are what she is studying?
- How relevant to their lives do you think Nickel and Dimed might be? (and this might be a question to reflect upon when you are in the middle or at the end of the book).
Serving in Florida
1) In what ways is the process of interviewing that Ehrenreich encounters demeaning or unappreciative of workers' individuality?
Would you be willing to go through what she does to get a job?
2) How do managers and assistant managers, as Ehrenreich depicts them, function as adversaries to those beneath them?
3) What might explain the managers' behavior and mentality given that most of those in such positions came from the same jobs their employees fill and that they themselves for the most part make very little money?
4) Have you formed an opinion of those in managerial positions from your own experiences? Does it correspond to what Ehrenreich observes?
5) How do the brief vignettes (25-6) about her coworkers' living quarters add to Ehrenreich's tale of her own experiences?
6) One point that Ehrenreich makes throughout the book is that "starting conditions are everything" (27).
- What does she mean by this, and why does she make this point more than once?
Think about your own situation of starting college, as you are right now. Is there a similar experience in relation to the effort you are undertaking?