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What is Poverty?: Summary & Exercise [Class-11]

Summary of What is Poverty

In the essay "What is Poverty?" by Jo Goodwin Parker, the author provides a detailed and poignant description of what poverty is and how it impacts the daily lives of those who experience it. Through vivid and descriptive language, the author conveys the physical and emotional challenges of living in poverty, including inadequate housing and living conditions, limited access to education and healthcare, and the constant stress and decision-making involved in trying to provide for one's family on a limited budget.

The essay also touches on the societal prejudices and negative stereotypes surrounding poverty, and the barriers and challenges that those living in poverty face in trying to access assistance or advocate for themselves. The essay concludes with a call to action, urging the reader to consider the realities of poverty and to take action to address the issue. Overall, the essay provides a powerful and compelling portrayal of the devastating and all-encompassing impact of poverty, and encourages the reader to consider their own role in addressing and addressing this complex and pressing issue.

Understanding the text

Answer the following questions.

a. What is poverty according to Parker?

According to Parker, poverty is a combination of physical and emotional struggles including dirty and unsanitary living conditions, chronic illness and tiredness due to poor diet and lack of access to healthcare, and constant stress and decision-making about how to make ends meet and provide for one's family.

b. How is poverty difficult for Parker’s children? List some specific examples.

Poverty is difficult for Parker's children in various ways. For example, they often do not have enough food to eat, and the food they do have is often not nutritious. They also do not have access to clean clothes or proper hygiene, and they are at risk of illness and injury due to unsanitary living conditions. The children also lack access to education and opportunities for personal and social development.

c. How does Parker try to obtain help, and what problems does she encounter?

Parker tries to obtain help by going to welfare offices and asking for assistance, but she encounters problems such as long wait times, bureaucracy, and insensitive or judgmental treatment from staff.

d. Why are people’s opinions and prejudices her greatest obstacles?

People's opinions and prejudices are Parker's greatest obstacles because they often lead to negative stereotypes and misunderstandings about the causes and realities of poverty. These prejudices can also prevent people from recognizing the systemic and structural issues that contribute to poverty and from advocating for policies and programs that address these issues.

e. How does Parker defend her inability to get help? How does she discount the usual solutions society has for poverty (e.g., welfare, education, and health clinics)?

Parker defends her inability to get help by explaining the various barriers and challenges she faces in trying to access assistance. She also discounts the usual solutions society has for poverty by pointing out that these solutions are often inadequate or unavailable to those in poverty, and that they do not address the root causes of poverty. Instead, she advocates for systemic change and more comprehensive approaches to addressing poverty.

Reference to the Context

a. Explain: Poverty is looking into a black future.

In the context of the essay "What is Poverty?" by Jo Goodwin Parker, the phrase "Poverty is looking into a black future" refers to the many ways in which poverty can prevent individuals and families from envisioning or achieving a brighter or more positive future. Throughout the essay, Parker describes the various challenges and struggles that come with living in poverty, including inadequate housing and living conditions, limited access to education and healthcare, and constant stress and decision-making about how to make ends meet. These challenges can make it difficult for those in poverty to see any hope or opportunity for improvement in their circumstances. Additionally, the societal prejudices and negative stereotypes surrounding poverty can further contribute to a sense of hopelessness and despair about the future, as it may feel like there are few options or opportunities for those living in poverty to lift themselves out of their situation.

b. What does Parker mean by “The poor are always silent”?

By saying "The poor are always silent," Parker is likely expressing the idea that those living in poverty are often not able to speak out or advocate for themselves and their needs due to the challenges and limitations they face. This could be due to a variety of factors, such as a lack of resources or support, fear of retribution or judgment, or a feeling of powerlessness or resignation about their circumstances. Additionally, societal prejudices and negative stereotypes about poverty may lead to the marginalization and silencing of those living in poverty, further preventing them from being able to speak out and have their voices heard. Overall, the phrase "The poor are always silent" suggests that those living in poverty may feel unable to speak up or advocate for themselves due to the many challenges and barriers they face.

c. What writing strategy does the author use at the beginning of most of the paragraphs? Do you notice a recurring pattern? What is it?

At the beginning of most of the paragraphs in the essay "What is Poverty?" by Jo Goodwin Parker, the author uses the rhetorical device of anaphora, repeating the phrase "Poverty is" at the beginning of each paragraph to emphasize the various ways in which poverty impacts an individual's daily life. This repetition creates a strong and cohesive structure for the essay, helping to build a clear and comprehensive understanding of what poverty is and how it affects those who experience it.

The recurring pattern in the use of anaphora is that the phrase "Poverty is" is repeated at the beginning of most of the paragraphs, followed by a description of a specific aspect of poverty and how it impacts an individual's life. For example, in one paragraph, the author writes, "Poverty is dirt. You can say in your clean clothes coming from your clean house, 'Anybody can be clean.' Let me explain about housekeeping with no money." This repetition of the phrase "Poverty is" at the beginning of the paragraph emphasizes the theme of the essay and helps to draw the reader's attention to the specific aspect of poverty being described in that paragraph. Overall, the use of anaphora helps to create a strong and cohesive structure for the essay and helps to build a clear and comprehensive understanding of what poverty is and how it impacts those who experience it.

d. How does Parker develop each paragraph? What details make each paragraph memorable?

Throughout the essay "What is Poverty?" by Jo Goodwin Parker, the author develops each paragraph by providing specific and detailed descriptions of the various ways in which poverty impacts an individual's daily life. In each paragraph, the author focuses on a specific aspect of poverty, such as the physical and emotional challenges of living in unsanitary and inadequate housing, the impact of poor diet and lack of access to healthcare, or the stresses and decision-making involved in trying to provide for one's family on a limited budget.

The details that make each paragraph memorable include the vivid and descriptive language the author uses to convey the reality and impact of poverty. For example, the author writes, "Poverty is getting up every morning from a dirt- and illness-stained mattress. The sheets have long since been used for diapers." This vivid and specific detail helps to bring the reader into the experience of living in poverty, and helps to create a strong emotional connection to the subject matter. Similarly, the author describes the smell of poverty as a "smell of urine, sour milk, and spoiling food sometimes joined with the strong smell of long-cooked onions," again using specific and descriptive language to convey the reality of living in poverty.

Overall, the use of specific and descriptive details helps to make each paragraph in the essay memorable and helps to convey the impact and reality of poverty in a powerful and compelling way.

e. In the final paragraph, how does the author use questions to involve the reader in the issue of poverty?

In the final paragraph of the essay "What is Poverty?" by Jo Goodwin Parker, the author uses questions to involve the reader in the issue of poverty by urging the reader to consider the ways in which poverty affects the lives of those who experience it and to take action to address the issue. Specifically, the author writes: "...The poor are always silent. Can you be silent too?"

In this final paragraph, the author uses questions to draw the reader into the experience of living in poverty and to challenge the reader to consider their own role in addressing the issue. The use of questions encourages the reader to think about the realities of poverty and to consider what they can do to help those who are experiencing poverty. This use of questions helps to involve the reader in the issue of poverty and to encourage them to take action to address the issue.

Reference Beyond the Text

Define a social problem (homelessness, unemployment, racism) imitating Parker’s style.

Homelessness is waking up every morning with no place to call home. It is feeling the cold concrete beneath your body as you try to find a spot on the sidewalk that is out of the way and yet still visible to potential passersby who may offer a kind word or a spare change. It is the constant search for shelter and safety, never feeling truly secure or at ease. It is a constant struggle to find a way to make ends meet, to eat and stay warm, with no permanent address or access to resources. It is feeling invisible and forgotten as if the rest of society has turned a blind eye to your existence. It is the weight of shame and stigma, the fear of being judged or discriminated against because of your circumstances. It is the endless cycle of poverty and despair, feeling trapped and helpless to change your situation.

Using adjectives to highlight the futility of the situation, write a short definition essay on Growing up in Poverty.

Growing up in poverty is a devastating and all-encompassing experience that can have a profound and lasting impact on an individual's life. It is a constant and overwhelming struggle to meet basic needs and to provide for oneself and one's family. It is a life marked by inadequate housing and living conditions, limited access to education and healthcare, and constant financial and emotional stress. It is a life filled with insecurity and uncertainty, with little hope or opportunity for improvement. It is a life of constant struggle and sacrifice, with few if any opportunities for personal or social development. It is a life of never-ending hardship and despair, with few chances to escape the cycle of poverty. Growing up in poverty is a soul-crushing and demoralizing experience that leaves its mark on every aspect of an individual's life.

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