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Alexa Bringhurst

Jackie Burr

English 1010 Section 2

16 November 2017

Poverty: What It Really Is

In the article “What is Poverty?” the author explains her definitions of poverty and what

it is like to live with it. Jo Goodwin Parker wrote this article with the intent to inform others of

what poverty actually means. She explains the things many people do not think of when they

hear the term “poor” like the horrible smells and rotting conditions with which they have to live

in, the lack of money to attend to even the most basic needs, or watching the fire to make sure

her child does not die in flames sparked by a floating ember. She suggests that people be open-

minded and grateful, “Listen with understanding. Put yourself in my dirty, worn out, ill-fitting

shoes, and hear me.” Parker specifically targets the rich and middle class people because they

have such a negative view of the less fortunate. The article appeals to the emotion of the

audience through use of common and relatable phrases, imagery, and personal experience in

order to alter the view of the poor and promote willingness to help rather than looking down on

them and walking away.

Part of Jo Goodwin Parker’s success in her essay stems from such relatable phrases,

which aid the audience in connecting with her story. The article depends heavily on pathos. She

describes harsh living conditions, inability to obtain medical care or medicines, very limited

food, and constant lack of sleep: QUOTE or TWO. Each one of these examples makes the
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reader feel for her. Everyday items we take for granted Parker discusses how the absence of

those items affect her. This leads to an emotional connection between the reader and the story.

Generally poverty is a topic that is viewed negatively by America. Before reading this

article people had preconceived ideas on what they think the definition of poverty is, or how

people live with it. After reading the article you can see that Parker is not trying to create a

colloquial ¨pity party,¨ or argue for assistance programs, or special shelters. She simply writes to

convey a message of the daily life she continues to persevere through and strongly suggests to

aid those in need. Parker’s point is to open the eyes of others to what the poor struggle and deal

with on a day to day basis, she does not want people to feel bad for her or the poor. She would

rather those people find ways to help them, like simplifying assistance programs, where to find

them, and who to talk to. The less fortunate do not have the means or access to quick and easy

research, she indicates that they have to walk everywhere and talk to many people to find out

where the right places are for them to go. Because they don’t have the financial means to pay for

transportation they have to find other ways to pay for that help from someone. She creates the

feeling of a bleak existence, a sense of hopelessness, because once in her difficult situation she

did not just wake up one day and have the things she needed to survive and money in her pocket.

It is a cyclical situation with no easy way to make things easier or better. She created the feeling

of a dark tunnel with no light at the end. Her article begins with “You ask me what is poverty?”

and ends with “The poor are always silent. Can you be silent too?”. She asks the meaning of

poverty and then proceeds to explain the characteristics of it, and finishes it off with a begging

question. The readers could read the article backwards, from the end to the beginning, and it

would relay the same message.


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Parker helps you to identify little things that most people take for granted in everyday life

that she has to struggle with. She easily conveys the state of her home, dilapidated and falling

apart, allowing insects to invade and in need basic maintenance to endure time. Parker conveys

the conditions she lives in by stating “Poverty is cooking without food and cleaning without

soap.” She struggles to provide for her family but shows gratitude for being able to feed her

children, even though they are malnourished, they are not starving. Even though she cleans

without using soap does not mean it is still dirty. She continually shows her grim situation

through the use of repetition. The paragraph starts with “Poverty is…” followed by a personal

definition. Then it is trailed by an explanation of an example in her life. Each paragraph follows

the same pattern. This helps to emphasize her point throughout the writing.

Imagery plays an important role in adding pathos to the article. Without imagery the

article would be weak and the readers would get bored. When the reader can picture the situation

in their head they connect more with the passage and become more invested in reading it. In

addition to it keeping readers engaged it initially grabs the reader’s attention. Imagery and pathos

work together to help a piece of writing stand out and be unique. Without imagery it would be

like reading a picture book but all the pictures are missing. The reader would be lost and

confused and really struggle to imagine the story leading to a lesser probability of the book being

read. Parker’s choice of descriptive words helps the reader to envision her situation. “In summer,

poverty is watching gnats and flies devour your baby’s tears when he cries.” She specifically

states “gnats” and “flies” instead of making a hasty generalization and selecting the word “bugs”.

She also uses the descriptive word “devour”. Parker could have used words like, “eat” or “feast”

but devour helps to set the tone of the article. It is more serious and academic for the purpose of
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teaching others what the definition of poverty is and attempting to alter the preconceived ideas of

the poor.

Again, Parker closes with “The poor are alway silent. Can you be silent too?” With this

statement it causes the audience to feel the need to assist the poor by their own choice, if people

feel like it was their idea to help they are likely to work harder and push more for things to help

make it easier for the poor, rather than feel like it is a chore or a task they have to do. This is

another example of pathos. Parker’s article really does not establish who she is as a person,

ethos, or distinguish facts or statistics, logos. That leaves pathos to create the connection between

the story and the reader or audience. Parker does an excellent job at making the reader feel for

her situation but at the very beginning of the story in the first paragraph she says, “Listen without

pity. I cannot use your pity.” She wants you to understand what she is going through and be there

with an open mind to help in any way possible, but not to feel pitiful for her and not know what

to do to help. It makes the reader respect her.

Many people argue that Parker did not even live in poverty. Parker asked for her

information not to be released when the article was published. There are many theories as to

what Parker’s occupation was. It was determined that she is a convincing writer at the least. In

Parker’s conclusion she ties up all the loose ends and finishes the article off with a question that

really sticks to you: “The poor are always silent. Can you be silent too?”. This makes the reader

sit and think about the entire essay and it’s meaning but also to help the essay to stick out to

encourage readers to make a change in their perspective and the lives of others.

Works Cited
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Parker, Jo Goodwin. “What is Poverty?”