Sample Essay

Poverty is defined as the condition of scarcity of basic needs, water, nutrition, education, health facilities, etc. Harrington’s own knowledge of poverty, says Isserman, was decidedly second hand (Isserman). Harrington in his book has reflected on the notion of culture of poverty, a phrase coined by Oscar Lewis (an anthropologist), who was of the view that poverty is not necessarily the absence of wealth but it created its own subculture so that the poor, who were raised within it, were likely to be confined (Isserman).

Poverty in the U.S., according to Harrington, has formed a culture and a way of life as he says that the U.S. has ‘a culture of poverty beyond history, beyond progress, sunk in paralyzing, maiming routine’ (Harrington). The echoes of Lewis are heard in Harrington’s work as he argues that American poverty constituted a ‘separate culture, another nation, with its own way of life’ (Harrington).

Harrington defines poverty as more ‘extensive and tenacious than most Americans assumed’ (Isserman). The dilemma of the American society, describes Harrington, is that the poor are ‘invisible’ that is ‘one of the most important things about them’ (Harrington). The poor are not ‘simply neglected and forgotten’ but ‘they are not seen’ which is ‘much worse’ (Harrington). ‘The fate of the poor’, describes Harrington, ‘hangs upon the decision of the better-off’ (Harrington). Moreover Harrington defines poor Americans in terms of the people ‘who lack education and skill, who have bad health, poor housing, low levels of aspiration and high level of mental stress’ and if ‘one problem is solved, and the others are left constant, there is little gain’ (Harrington).

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