John extending on Frederick Douglass’s whole purpose of

John ButtarazziBeskenisAP Language and Composition7 December 2017Comparative Analysis Essay of Nickel and Dimed and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassThe US Department of Labor reported the median weekly income for a woman with less than a high school diploma to be $400. After attainment of a four-year college degree, their weekly income more than doubled. Barbara Ehrenreich perceives the importance of education as a necessity to live an enjoyable life, thus extending on Frederick Douglass’s whole purpose of writing The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in which he employs his newfound ability to read and write as a ladder to freedom and happiness, and spread truth of America’s lowest class’s treatment. Despite Ehrenreich’s experience of a wealthy lifestyle previous to her journey, and Douglass’ time as a slave, they both understand the impact knowledge has on a person.Frederick Douglass did not enjoy formal education as a slave, rather he was born into an illiterate life working as a dispensable servant. Slaveholders in the 1800’s even assumed “Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world” (Douglass 20). This exemplified their disregard for the development of Africans and African-Americans into educated citizens. Through interactions with his masters, young Douglass develops motivation to attain what they hate most, knowledge. The gap from slave to free man seemed unreachable to most people, with most attempts ending in death or cruel punishment. Yet, Douglass quickly understood his purpose in life was not to be a white man’s property, but a servant of God and a keystone for abolition. After his years of trading bread with boys for lessons on the alphabet, math, and reading, Frederick Douglass became cognizant of how such coveted freedom can be fulfilled. Many slaves at the plantations he had served did not entertain the idea of escape, as it was told to be a fruitless venture by the elders. Observing, living, and memorizing the Baltimore city life gave Douglass the upper hand needed to conform with northern society. Each experience educated his untried intellect and built a rung on his ladder to freedom. The life circumstances enforced upon Frederick Douglass creates a tunnel vision of his path to freedom through wit and knowledge.The publication of Nickel and Dimed, in 2001, made the assumption that higher education is more valuable than work experience. This ideology embarks Ehrenreich on an odyssey to uncover the truth about lifestyles of minimum wage society. Along the way she encounters a multitude of workers with years in the low wage industry. A colleague of hers notes, “you could work hard – harder even than you ever thought possible – and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt”(Ehrenreich 220). Yet, they do not reap the rewards that should come with experience such as pay, benefits, and promotion. Similar to the appreciation owners had towards slaves, such as Douglass’s grandmother “served my old master faithfully from youth to old age. She had been the source of all his wealth; she had peopled his plantation with slaves…built her a little hut, put up a little mud chimney and then made her welcome to the privilege of supporting herself out there in perfect loneliness; thus virtually turning her out to die” (Douglass 28).  Low wage employers such as Walmart, Menards, and The Maids, use numbing orientation that last for “eight hours, which will include two fifteen-minute breaks” (Ehrenreich 143) to mold the potential candidates into mindless workers, that will not create problems or inefficiency. This uniform education is present in both memoirs, as Douglass endures 15 years of unquestioned labor and completion requirements. When entering the manual labor, retail, and food service employment market, all previous knowledge is dismissed with the “Accutrac personality test”(Ehrenreich 59), asking employees redundant trick questions on morals, ethics, and personal history. A tone of distrust in candidates is apparent by the accusatory diction the interviewers opt for. “How many dollars’ worth of stolen goods have I purchased in the last year?”(Ehrenreich 14). Nearly a century and a half before, the same type of degrading questions were asked to Douglass every day after he turned his daily profit over to the master. Through both authors’ undesirable troubles, one chosen and the other born into them, they intersect at a common theme of the importance of education and the desire to educate the world of their journey through literature.Frederick Douglass discovers his purpose for writing a memoir through the desire to educate and expose the wrongdoings of slaveholders, which to them is justified through God. The now freed slave, refutes the belief of Christianity of the land, “between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference” (Douglass 71) an idea encompassing all the duties slaveholders find just. To spark an internal movement among the abolitionists, and reveal the truth of treatment, he composes the Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass, “hoping this little book may do something toward throwing light on the American slave system” (Douglass 76).  Thus providing key insight for the anti-slavery cause to those who have been ignorant of the current injustices. The distribution of his book enlightened the northern population who have chosen to turn a blind eye to the rising tension of slavery, accomplishing his goal to stir the stagnant situation and begin a process of encouraging others to speak out and create legislation to slow and hopefully stop the barbaric tradition. Barbara Ehrenreich and Frederick Douglass find their purpose to be an informant of the inhumane and unfair treatment the lowest class of people in American society receive and push for action to fix it. Separation of over 100 years does not narrow the gap between the slave and the white man, or the working poor and middle class, rather it develops different life-lasting aspects. Similar to Douglass, Ehrenreich was moved emotionally more than physically by the treatment suffered by low wage workers and was dutied to write Nickel and Dimed, showcasing her cry to better pay and benefits for those that are swept under the rug of typical American success. She disproves the promising statistics and government statements that 1″there are jobs, but they are low pay jobs with no benefits. Not livable wage jobs” (Ehrenreich 227).  Likewise Douglass airs his perspective of the supposive “better treatment” slaves from Maryland are receiving, that has been argued for years by white abolitionists. Using the factual view of these situations educates the reader and develops two trustworthy pieces of literature. The narrative form of discourse applied to a memoir appeals to the pathos of the audience in both books, creating an emotion of guilt and pushing the notion of change. The federal minimum wage in modern dollar value has risen over two dollars from 2000 to 2017, yet over 13% of people still live below the poverty line in America. The fight is slow but prevalent, as Ehrenreich’s extension on Douglass’s narrative declaring the importance of education to obtain a comfortable life can still be seen today. The same purpose in Douglass’s endeavors were gradual, but through the distribution of his memoir, more African-Americans became literate and successfully outlawed slavery. The resolution of improving the low class people of America has been seen over 150 years ago and will continue to improve for the men and women today, thus enforcing that The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Nickel and Dimed have positively impacted the ability to climb the socioeconomic ladder to equality.Works CitedEhrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Metropolitan Books, 2001.Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895. Narrative Of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Boston :Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. Print.”Median Weekly Earnings by Educational Attainment in 2014 : The Economics Daily.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23 Jan. 2015,


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