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Elements of the argument what is poverty

Elements of the Argument: "What is Poverty?"

Steve Ross Expository Writing Dr. Nancy Nester Final 10/25/96

What do you consider poverty to be? Do you have a definitive

explanation of it or do you consider it an abstract circumstance? In the

article "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 in

a life of poverty. By using these images, Parker is capable of causing the

reader to feel many emotions and forces the reader to question his or her own

stereotypes of the poor. With the use of connotative language and the ability

to arouse emotion, Parker successfully compels the reader to examine his or her

thoughts and beliefs on who the poor are.

Parker's use of connotative language causes the reader to feel many

emotions. Of these emotions, a prominent one is guilt. Parker is capable of

making the reader feel guilty for the possessions that he or she has. For

example, she uses the phrase "You say in your clean clothes coming from your

clean house, ..."(Parker 237). This causes the reader to feel guilty for having

the 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 hot

water is a luxury. The unimpoverished take it for granted and never before

considered it anything other than a basic possession. When the reader hears

that someone else calls it a luxury that they cannot afford, he or she can't

help but feel guilty for having it as a basic possession. Parker also attacks

the guilt of the reader through stories of her children. She knows that some

readers may not feel guilty for things that happen to her, but when children are

introduced to the situation they will feel more guilt. She says, "My children

have no extra books, no magazines, no extra pencils, or crayons, or

paper..."(Parker 238). The reader cannot help but feel guilty for having these

basic things when her children, who need them, do not. Another thing that

Parker makes the audience feel guilty for having is health. She says, talking

about her children, "...most important of all, they do not have health."(Parker

238). 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 the

reader also feels. She is very successful in accomplishing this and this

success causes her argument to become very powerful.

Not only does she make us feel guilty for having possessions that she

cannot, but Parker also makes us feel guilty about the stereotypes we hold. She

knows what society's stereotypes are and she successfully combats them. Parker

knows that society thinks the poor don't want to work. To attack this she tells

of why she can't work. She has three children. The last time she had a job the

babysitter she left them with did not take care of them. She returned to find

all three in dangerous situations. Her baby had not been changed since she had

left it there, her other was playing with a piece of sharp glass, and her oldest

was playing alone at the edge of a lake (Parker 236-237). Her chances of

finding a better babysitter are slim because she cannot afford a nursery school

due 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 has

of the poor. Society questions why the poor cannot be clean. She tells of how

without money she cannot afford any cleaning supplies (Parker 237). Parker

tells of how she saved for two months to buy a jar of Vaseline and when she had

finally saved enough the price had gone up two cents (237). She cannot wash in

soap because it has to be saved to clean the baby's diapers (Parker 237). She

effectively shows how society's stereotypes are incorrect. She is capable of

making the reader feel guilty for the stereotypes and causes the reader to

question why he or she has them. If the audience would just take a little time

to try and understand her situation they would know how unfounded the

stereotypes are.

Parker is also successful in evoking sympathy from the reader. She uses

connotative language to create disturbing images of what poverty is. For

example, 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 a

horrible thing. It burns and corrodes away at something until it no longer

exists. By this reasoning poverty is destroying her life. This phrase forces

the reader to consider poverty as something worse than they had ever thought

before. She shows poverty as a curse, as a "chisel that chips on honor until

honor is worn away (Parker 239)." Parker starts almost every paragraph with a

new 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 a

different image of poverty and each one is a success in evoking sympathy from

the reader. They all force the reader to imagine poverty in a new way. We all

knew it was bad but Parker makes us realize how bleak poverty is. She shows us

that there is no hope for the poor without understanding.

Parker is successful in getting her point across with her use of

connotative language and her ability to create images. She has done a good job

of 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 whereas

she does not come across as offensive. All in all, Parker has done a successful

job at creating images and using the readers' emotion to get an audience to

listen to her plight and the struggles of other's in her situation.

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