Nickel and Dimed vs Scratched Beginnings: a Retorical Analysis

Plato’s definition of rhetoric is, “the art of ruling the minds of men. ” (Atlantic Monthly) All authors aim for this goal; to control how the mind perceives ones writing and to lead the audience to believe in what they have written is true. Skilled writers utilize this rhetoric to fulfill just that; yet the different types of rhetorical devices and combinations of it makes it so different messages use many of the same rhetorical devices.

Two novels that will be analyzed to demonstrate this are Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, which is about the instability of the bulk of unskilled job in different cities across the United States as seen through her experiment of going out and trying it herself. The other, Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search For the American Dream by Adam Shepard, focuses on his own experiences of attempting to discover whether or not the American Dream has faded away throughout the ages.

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In short, to analyze the rhetorical similarities and difference between Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and Shepard’s Scratch Beginnings. The way that Ehrenreich crafted her novel gives it a professional structure, with short burst of informality, commonly used for shock-effect, as seen on page 141; “ Generally acts like ‘a shit‘. ” (Nickel and Dimed) Along with this structure is a variety of punctuation that is utilized to keep the point of each sentence clear and concise.

From colons, such as “With serving at Jerry’s: ‘Some kid did it once for five days,’ “ (45) to dashes, “where Earl indicates a closed door– the kitchen, he says–but we can’t go now,” (55) which Ehrenreich utilized to kept a variety of punctuation. All of these sentences, on average, are longer to medium in length; that is unless if she wished to catch the attention of the audience. In that circumstance she used brief sentences, such as “I leave. I don‘t walk out, I just leave. ” (48) . This all creates a very structured tone, one of a higher academic level.

This structure, though, seems to have a negative, even nagging feel within the story as a whole, as evident here, “ In this frame of mind, the last thing I want to see is a customer rifling around, disturbing the place. In fact, I hate the idea of things being sold-uprooted from their natural homes, whisked off to some closet that’s in God-knows-what state of disorder. ” (166-167) All of these uses of formal structure of sentences while properly utilizing punctuation outside of periods and commas, combined ith the used of shock-factor swearing and short sentences among a common collection of longer sentences and the final factor of the context of the words brings one to conclude that Ehrenreich’s target audience are those much better off than the conditions she was encountering. This group is to be expected to be of middle age and has obtained a stable job that earns them a salary of upper middle-class to upper-class, alike Ehrenreich herself. Ehrenreich’s rhetorical choices are, of sorts, an opposite to how Shepard designed Scratched Beginnings.

His own structure is very informal, with word choice of frequent use of swearing and slang to enforce this informality, such as“ ‘Dude, I’m cookin’ dinner in here. ’ ‘I don’t give a shit. Them lights cost. ’ “ (Scratched Beginnings 178) The punctuation of his sentences, such as the one previously referenced, are most often very simplistic, normally not venturing past commas and periods. This is connected to the short to medium length sentences, that get to the point, yet always resonates with a positivity and inspiration about it. One instance out of many is “I knew that I was going to succeed.

Now… I knew what I had to do to make it happen. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I had a plan, and now it was a matter of putting my plan into action. And I couldn’t wait to start. ” (29) The audience that Shepard writes for is presented in the very beginning by himself “So, here we go. You, my audience: The dad… The fifteen-year-old… The recent college grad…The seventy-two-year-old grandfather.. The thirty-two-year-old mother… You, the underdog. ” (Scratched Beginnings intro. xvi) He writes to anyone who is feeling lost, or irritated, or just needs inspiration to let them know that if you set your mind towards a task, you can achieve it.

This is versus Ehrenreich’s older, more closed minded upper-middle to upper-class. These broad categories do not fit everyone that fall in them, of course, but a majority can see on the level that either author is writing on, and shares the same ideals, more or less, with one author that others. Shepard is very straight forward with his goal of the piece, saying in the Introduction of the novel, “I aim to find out if the American dream is still alive, or if it has, in fact, been drowned out by the greed of the upper class coupled with the apathy of the lower class. “(Scratched Beginnings Intro. vi) This is something that the audience is aware of and follows with throughout his journey. On the contrary, Ehrenreich has forced the audience to search for her message. Something interesting that she does throughout Nickel and Dimed is she alienates and offends some of her audience, with obvious examples of this is “So I’m a victim not of poverty but of prosperity,” (Nickel and Dimed 172) and “Maybe, it occurred to me, I’m getting a tiny glimpse of what it would be like to be black,”(100) which was said because of the way she was being treated and perceived during her time as a cleaning lady.

This offence is an attempt to persuade the audience to act against the horrid conditions that she and others in the novel have experienced. Towards the end of the journey she transforms this attempt of persuasion into her own example of standing up for what she believes in within the section Selling in Minnesota, “ After that, there’s nothing to stop me. I’m on a mission now: Raise the questions! Plant the seeds! ” (182) This was all said when she was working at Wall-Mart, trying to plant rebellion with in it to formulate a union; something that is forbidden for the employees.

This underlying message drives home her true goal to open peoples eyes of what is occurring around them, and to not only look at it with disappointment, but to act upon it. Both Ehrenreich and Shepard get to their point with few instances of flowery language. Also, outside of a quote to reference a fact or statement, neither utilize allusion within their works. They both stay on track within their own agenda. Both authors also fancy rhetorical questions, such as this quote pulled from Scratched Beginnings, “Was this really Charleston?

Where were the million–dollar mansions and the bed-and-breakfasts and the horse-drawn carriages that I’d seen in photos? Where was the market? … What exactly had I gotten myself into? ” (Scratched Beginnings 7) and for Nickel and Dimed, “By keeping my mouth shut in the first place, when Holly took her fall? Or by sticking to my one-person strike until-who knows? ’ she eventually relented and let us drive her to the nearest ER or to at least sat down? (Nickel and Dimed 114) Shepard used more of a conversational advance towards his tone whereas Ehrenreich used a formal approach. Yet, she was more crafty with her approach of her goal within her piece, which Shepard displayed for all to see. They both had an inward approach for the novels that were about great exterior occurrences. All in all, Shepard’s Scratch Beginnings and Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed have similarities and differences, as do most books.

Work Cited Page

Various. Atlantic Monthly, Volume 2, Issue 11, September, 1858. 15, June, 2005. 13. November, 2012.

Shepard, Adam. Scratch Beginnings: Me, $ 25, and the Search for the American Dream. New York: HarperCollins, 2008

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001

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