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<...
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