Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination In Literature


In America today, poverty, inequality, and discrimination are not spoken about enough to inform uneducated individuals about this issue. As time has passed, this issue has slightly improved, but still has not reached a society where everyone is seen as just human. These concerns involve more than a lack of income; it includes hunger, a nonexistence education, and horrifying health risks. Poverty, inequality, and discrimination destructively impact the characters in the novel Nickel and Dimed, the play Fences, and the court case Brown vs Board.

To start off, in the story, Nickel and Dimed, Barbara, the main character, sets a goal to see if she can pay for her bills as a low-wage worker. However, she understands this will unquestionably be a struggle; to live how the individuals are living in poverty today. She discovers that wages are too low and rents are way too high. Barbara goes through various obstacles that happen when struggling to survive on a low paying job. To begin, individuals who work for numerous hours a day certainly should get payed an additional amount, no matter what they do for a living. Barbara finds a job, “from 2:00 to 10:00 p.m. for $2.43 an hour” (Ehrenreich 16). For someone who works 8 hours in one day, she unquestionably deserves a superior amount of money. However, she works very hard and she only pockets $20 a day; while other individuals, who lounge behind a desk all day, make way more. More than “3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day” (The World Counts). Next, the poor keep getting striked by poverty, there is basically no escape. In order for Barbara to keep her car, she has “to find a second or an alternative job” (Ehrenreich 22). She mainly is working to survive and pay off the needs in life, but she gets no extra money to purchase or do anything she desires to do.  Worst of all, poverty increases the risks of terrible health. Barbara says, “if you have no money for health insurance,” unfortunately, “you go without routine care or prescription drugs and end up paying the price” (Ehrenreich 21). Diseases that need to be treated kill numerous amounts of the poorest people because they can’t afford the treatment. In our world today, according to UNICEF, “around 22,000 children die each day due to poverty” (The World Counts). Overall, Barbara experiences living in poverty and practically didn’t make it. Now, imagine how a married couple, with children, who are living through poverty today are able to survive? 

To continue, in the play, Fences, Troy, the main character, shows the weaknesses of discrimination and poverty. Racism has a powerful effect on every main event in his life, which ends up making him the enemy to his own son. To start off, Troy refuses to let his own son play the sport he admires, football. He claims, “the white man ain’t gonna let him get nowhere with that football” (Wilson 11). He is persuaded that Cory, his son, will be treated unfairly, and he’s afraid that the color of his skin will stop him from getting the recognition he earns. However, the overall issue isn’t the discrimination in sports, it’s the racism in daily lives. Troy cries, “not only couldn't you get a job . . . you couldn't find no place to live” (Wilson 57). The African Americans who we think are in freedom, were living in shacks made of sticks. This vision made Troy have awful incidents that he now painfully regrets, all because African Americans aren’t treated the same in his eyes. “African Americans are “twice as likely to be unemployed as whites and the wages of blacks continue to lag well behind those of whites” (Pager/Shepherd). Lastly, racism didn’t only affect Troy, it absolutely wrecked the connections he shared with his family. Troy offensively shouts to his son, its “not cause I like you! Cause it’s my duty to take care of you!” (Wilson 41). Troy has made an upsetting, selfish, and abusive relationship with his son since he has experienced trauma of racism growing up. The play, Fences, reveals a real experience of the truth of racism and white privilege. 

Lastly, in the case, Brown vs Board, the supreme court ruled against segregation, declaring that all men are treated equally. But this was not the case. To this day, African Americans are often treated differently than whites. Brown vs Board was a very famous court case that fought for equal educational rights for African Americans. Sadly, “around 1 billion people welcomed the 21st century not knowing how to read and write” (The World Counts). Originally, schools were kept separate but equal, but African American schools weren’t given the same resources. To this day, “minority students are about half as likely to be assigned to the most effective teachers and twice as likely to be assigned to the least effective” (Darling-Hammond). Individuals, such as Earl Warren, who was an American jurist, stood up for these rights, saying “the plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal” (Warren 3). The reasoning for African Americans not being able to find a job was because they weren’t educated to the same degree as whites. In fact, “the U.S. educational system is one of the most unequal in the industrialized world” (Darling-Hammond). The root of the problem was education. But, keeping the schools separate was putting whites at an unfair advantage. Earl Warren stood up to change this apparent advantage, “it is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship” (Warren 9).  Currently, education is more available to those who are wealthier, still proving to be a problem in today’s society. 

Poverty, inequality, and discrimination destructively impact the characters in the novel Nickel and Dimed, the play Fences, and the court case Brown vs Board. To conclude, thousands of individuals are still living in poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Poverty has accomplished to harshly affect the lives of so many; there is no control over when it strikes, leading to inequality. Inequality steers to an assortment of countless complications. It contains views, attitudes, and beliefs. Individuals are different for numerous reasons and over the years, America has shown progress trying to fix this chaos. But the main issue still needed to be fixed today is discrimination. Discrimination is a major setback in today’s world. Unfair treatment is common today because of race, gender, religion, disability, and sexual orientation. The complications today are likely to be the same in the future, unless everyone stands to make a change.

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