Elements feel many emotions and forces the reader
Elements of the Argument: “What is Poverty?”Elements of the Argument: “What is Poverty?”Steve Ross Expository Writing Dr.
Nancy Nester Final 10/25/96What do you consider poverty to be? Do you have a definitiveexplanation of it or do you consider it an abstract circumstance? In thearticle “What is Poverty?”, Jo Goodwin Parker gives her ideas on what poverty is.First given as a speech, this article is written as an attack on human emotion.Her use of connotative language creates many harsh images of her experiences ina life of poverty. By using these images, Parker is capable of causing thereader to feel many emotions and forces the reader to question his or her ownstereotypes of the poor. With the use of connotative language and the abilityto arouse emotion, Parker successfully compels the reader to examine his or herthoughts and beliefs on who the poor are.
Parker’s use of connotative language causes the reader to feel manyemotions. Of these emotions, a prominent one is guilt. Parker is capable ofmaking the reader feel guilty for the possessions that he or she has. Forexample, she uses the phrase “You say in your clean clothes coming from yourclean house, …
“(Parker 237). This causes the reader to feel guilty for havingthe opportunity to be clean when we all know that she doesn’t have the same.She calls hot water a “luxury”(Parker 237). To those living in poverty hotwater is a luxury.
The unimpoverished take it for granted and never beforeconsidered it anything other than a basic possession. When the reader hearsthat someone else calls it a luxury that they cannot afford, he or she can’thelp but feel guilty for having it as a basic possession. Parker also attacksthe guilt of the reader through stories of her children.
She knows that somereaders may not feel guilty for things that happen to her, but when children areintroduced to the situation they will feel more guilt. She says, “My childrenhave no extra books, no magazines, no extra pencils, or crayons, orpaper…”(Parker 238). The reader cannot help but feel guilty for having thesebasic things when her children, who need them, do not.
Another thing thatParker makes the audience feel guilty for having is health. She says, talkingabout her children, “…most important of all, they do not have health.
“(Parker238). She goes on further to describe what is wrong with them. Parker says,”They have worms, they have infections, they have pink-eye all summer”(238).These descriptions of her children cause the reader to feel horrible for them.By making the reader feel this way she is increasing the level of guilt thereader also feels.
She is very successful in accomplishing this and thissuccess causes her argument to become very powerful.Not only does she make us feel guilty for having possessions that shecannot, but Parker also makes us feel guilty about the stereotypes we hold. Sheknows what society’s stereotypes are and she successfully combats them. Parkerknows that society thinks the poor don’t want to work. To attack this she tellsof why she can’t work.
She has three children. The last time she had a job thebabysitter she left them with did not take care of them. She returned to findall three in dangerous situations.
Her baby had not been changed since she hadleft it there, her other was playing with a piece of sharp glass, and her oldestwas playing alone at the edge of a lake (Parker 236-237). Her chances offinding a better babysitter are slim because she cannot afford a nursery schooldue to fact that she makes too little (Parker 237). This is why she cannot work.
Her inability to work leads to many of the other stereotypes that society hasof the poor. Society questions why the poor cannot be clean. She tells of howwithout money she cannot afford any cleaning supplies (Parker 237). Parkertells of how she saved for two months to buy a jar of Vaseline and when she hadfinally saved enough the price had gone up two cents (237). She cannot wash insoap because it has to be saved to clean the baby’s diapers (Parker 237).
Sheeffectively shows how society’s stereotypes are incorrect. She is capable ofmaking the reader feel guilty for the stereotypes and causes the reader toquestion why he or she has them. If the audience would just take a little timeto try and understand her situation they would know how unfounded thestereotypes are.
Parker is also successful in evoking sympathy from the reader. She usesconnotative language to create disturbing images of what poverty is. Forexample, she calls poverty an “acid that drips on pride until pride is worn away(Parker 239).” Not only is poverty bad but it is an acid. An acid is ahorrible thing.
It burns and corrodes away at something until it no longerexists. By this reasoning poverty is destroying her life. This phrase forcesthe reader to consider poverty as something worse than they had ever thoughtbefore. She shows poverty as a curse, as a “chisel that chips on honor untilhonor is worn away (Parker 239).” Parker starts almost every paragraph with anew definition of what poverty is. Some examples are:”poverty is being tired”(Parker 236), “poverty is dirt” (237), “poverty is asking for help” (237), and”poverty is looking into a black future” (238). All of these phrases create adifferent image of poverty and each one is a success in evoking sympathy fromthe reader.
They all force the reader to imagine poverty in a new way. We allknew it was bad but Parker makes us realize how bleak poverty is. She shows usthat there is no hope for the poor without understanding.Parker is successful in getting her point across with her use ofconnotative language and her ability to create images. She has done a good jobof attacking the reader and getting him or her to listen to what she has to say.Even though she attacks the audience she does it in an appropriate way whereasshe does not come across as offensive. All in all, Parker has done a successfuljob at creating images and using the readers’ emotion to get an audience tolisten to her plight and the struggles of other’s in her situation.