What is Poverty


Steve Ross
Expository Writing
Dr. Nancy Nester
Final 10/25/96
Elements of the Argument: "What is Poverty?"

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