What is Poverty?
By Jo Goodwin Parker
This personal essay ‘What is Poverty’ has been written by an anonymous person named Jo Goodwin Parker from West Virginia, the Southern United States. This essay was mailed to George Henderson, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, with a sign of Jo Goodwin Parker. Later on, this essay was published with no further information about its actual author and source. The essay was published with the facts of hardships faced by a woman due to poverty.
Here in this essay, we find the writer’s painful experiences in her life due to her poverty. She has explained her miserable experiences from childhood to adulthood where she has experienced various hardships in her life.
In her personal essay, she has talked about various aspects of poverty. She has given a real and graphic account of what is being poor actually means on a daily basis. According to her, the poverty is more ugly, cruel and devastating than it is shown in newspaper.
She has defined poverty as a lack-that is living without hope, better foodstuffs, medicinal care, proper sanitation and proper education. It is like an acid that destroys pride, honour, health and future. Parker’s main purpose is to show how shameful, humiliating and disgusting it is to be a poor. She wants to draw the readers’ attention towards the pathetic state of the poor people. She wants her readers to know about poverty without showing pity over her.
Poor people have to live restless life looking at the dark future of their children. Poverty breaks relationship. Parker had three children. Her husband left her due to the poverty. He didn’t have regular job. He left all of them due to the burden of family. He left home without saying goodbye. Their condition was quite worse during that time. They even didn’t have money to buy contraceptives to prevent unwanted birth. She had a job. She only earned 22 dollars a week then. Due to her poor diet, she suffered from anemia. The doctor advised her for operation but she didn’t have money. She struggled hard alone to care her children. She faced various hardships to care her children during cold and summer seasons’ days and nights.
Once she left her children under her mother’s care. But, when she returned home, she found her kids in a very pitiable condition. Her youngest son was covered with fly specks and his diaper hadn’t been changed since morning. Her next kid was playing with broken glasses and the oldest son was playing alone at the edge of the lake. She didn’t have enough income to admit them at a nursery school. She had to pay up 20 dollars a week for three children to admit them. But, her income was 22 dollars only. For the sake of children’s care, she decided to quit her job.
Analysis of the essay:
This essay is related with the problems of poverty. Poverty makes us weaker in various aspects. Money plays vital role in poverty. If we want to solve problems, we need money. To get rid of the garbage, we need shovel. But, to buy a shovel, we need money. To get any job, we must be neat and clean but we need money to buy soap and clothes. The writer has described about various events which happened to her because of poverty. She left the school because rich people’s children used to tease her all the time in the school because she was poor. She became pregnant many times because birth control was expensive for her. Her husband left her because of poverty. Her economic status was too poor so that she couldn’t do her operation in time. She used to provide cornbread without oil as a breakfast to her kids. She used to wash dishes with cold water without using soap. She didn’t buy soap in order to buy her baby’s diaper. She even didn’t buy Vaseline for her hands and the baby’s diaper rash. She visited various government and private agencies to ask for help but did not find the right person to help her. She felt much same and humiliation. For the sake of three children, she had to spread her hands in different places.
Understanding the text
- What is poverty according to Parker?
According to Parker, poverty is a lack-that is living without hope, better foodstuffs, medicinal care, proper sanitation and proper education. It is like an acid that destroys pride, honour, health and future.
- How is poverty difficult for Parker’s children? List some specific examples.
Parker’s three children suffer a lot due to poverty. They live their miserable lives due to the lack of proper foodstuffs, education, clothing and care. Parker has presented the very bad condition of her children along with her. She has provided us information with related to her children’s bad state. According to her, they used to eat oilless corn cornbread as a breakfast. They used to wear dirty clothes. They weren’t sent to a proper school. Parker has informed us about a day’s event when she had left her children under the care of her mother during her job. After her job, that day she found her youngest covered with flyspecks whose diaper hadn’t been changed since morning. Her next son was playing with the broken glasses. Her eldest son was playing on the edge of the lake.
- How does Parker try to obtain help, and what problems does she encounter?
Parker tries to obtain help by spreading her hands in front of different people and institutions for the sake of her children. Due to the lack of money, she tries her best to find supportive hands most of the time. To get help, she encounters problems to find the right organisation and person most of the time. She has to move to different organisations. She has to wait and tell her miserable story time and again.
- Why are people’s opinions and prejudices her greatest obstacles?
People’s opinions and prejudices are her greatest obstacles because these aspects prevent her from getting supportive hands for the sake of her family. Most the people don’t realize the bitter experience of poverty. For them, the pain of poor people is nothing. They keep on giving their opinions and prejudices against poor people. In the case of Parker, these opinions and prejudices of people make her failure to get help to run her family.
- 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 through her opinions related to her experiences of poverty. She discounts the usual solutions society has for poverty by telling her experiences related to welfare, education and health clinics. According to her, in the name of welfare, she has to move and spread her hands in many agencies in many places. In these agencies, she has face shame all the time. She has to prove her poverty time and again. She has to tell her story many times. Sometimes, welfare programs promise to help but to reach them takes a lot of time. In the name of education, school launch programs are there but they are of no use. She has experienced her two children condition after sending them to school. If we talk about the vital aspects of health clinics, Parker life is quite away from health clinics’ facilities. To get medical help, she has to walk miles. If she asks for someone’s help, the helper expects negative things from her. Thus, Parker is quite away from all these three important aspects.
Reference to the context
- Explain the following:
“Poverty is looking into a black future.”
This line “Poverty is looking into a black future” has been stated by the writer Jo Goodwin Parker in her essay. She has put forward this line for her readers to present her experience related to poverty. Here in this line, the writer is advising all the readers about an ugly and cruel aspect of poverty. According to her, poverty leads people towards the black future. Poor people have to live a miserable life on their daily basis. It is quite difficult to manage proper daily foodstuffs for them. For them, there is no hope for the upcoming future. They keep on spending their lives in disparity looking into a black future. Poverty breaks expectations and dreams of future days.
- What does Parker mean by “The poor are always silent”?
By “The poor are always silent”, Parker means the helplessness state of poor people. In poverty, money plays a very vital role. Money itself is the right solution for all the problems. But, due to lack of money, poor people feel weaker. They always remain silent in front of others. They have to listen to others words being silent due to their pathetic state
- What writing strategy does the author use at the beginning of most of the paragraphs? Do you notice a recurring pattern? What is it?
Here in this essay, the author uses her repetition strategy at the beginning of most of the paragraphs. Yes, I notice a recurring pattern. It is the structure ” Poverty is”. The essay is well organized, and the structure “Poverty is” is repeated at the beginning of each paragraph.
Here, with the help of her repetition strategy, she tries to establish a relationship between the woman and the readers. The author’s informal style makes the writing appear as part of a casual conversation between the narrator and the readers. Goodwin Parker’s writing is extremely effective and reaches its purpose.
- How does Parker develop each paragraph? What details make each paragraph memorable?
Parker develops each paragraph starting with her repetition strategy. She starts most of her paragraphs with a repetition statement as “Poverty is”. Later, she provides her personal experiences about her topic sentences.
The author first clearly explains to her readers that her purpose is to help people understand what poverty is. Her second purpose is to convince all her readers to help people in need. The details related to her personal painful experiences and bitter reality of poverty make each paragraph memorable.
- In the final paragraph, how does the author use questions to involve the readers in the issue of poverty?
In the final paragraph, the author uses questions in her informal style of direct conversation to involve the readers in the issue of poverty.
Parker has done a successful job at involving her readers through her persuasive manner. She asks them to look at the poor with an angry heart but not with the pitiable heart. This manner of question has attracted readers’ emotion as well as attention. Here, in the final paragraph, she has become successful to attract her readers’ attention toward her plight and the struggles of other’s in her situation.
Reference beyond the text
- Define a social problem (homelessness, unemployment, racism) imitating Parker’s style.
Homelessness is sleeping in footpaths. Homelessness compels you to sleep in footpaths. Living life on footpaths makes you weaker in various aspects. It ends up your pride and prestige.
Unemployment is living a life with shame. Unemployment degrades your value in society. Due to the lack of a job, you feel shame and humiliation all the time. People ridicule you in the name of unemployment.
Racism is living a life with humiliation. The racists make you feel weaker in society. They keep on humiliating you in the matter of skin colour. Due to your skin colour, you will have to face humiliation in your society. Living life under the concept of racism is a curse.
- Using adjectives to highlight the futility of the situation, write a short definition essay on Growing up in Poverty.
Poverty is defined as a pitiable situation where people feel a lack of various essential things in their life. Apart from others’ opinions, I think growing up in poverty is annoying. Poverty never allows you to be happy. Living life in poverty annoys you most of the time. Growing up in poverty makes your life boring. You never try to do anything interesting living within the criteria of poverty. You feel both confusing and disappointing to grow up in poverty. You feel confused about your life all the time. Disparity and inequality never let you be free and do something good in your lives. Growing up in poverty is a frightening experience where you have to face various hardships and struggles. It provides you with tiring and worrying experience where pains are always ready to welcome you.