Angela Whitiker's Climb
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The article by Isabel Wilkerson called “Angela Whitiker’s Climb” addresses a serious and multi-faceted issue of the social status in America. The article was written in 2005, so there might be some new realities that people face nowadays but the core problems discussed in the article are still relevant and sensitive to a lot of people. The author effectively starts her piece by placing a reader into the reality of Angela Whitiker using vivid descriptive language. Starting with the flashback the audience is then taken to see the sequence of events that led to the given conclusion. Throughout the whole article Wilkerson narrates the story of this woman and uses her example to illustrate the underlying issue that she is focusing on.
The story opens Angela’s personal world to a wide audience. One finds out that the woman dropped out of school in 10th grade and had five children by the age of 23. The tough life situation, including the inability to pay bills, choosing between a meal and an electricity bill, working on low-paid jobs, and experiencing difficulties with personal life are all described and brought to life with a help of examples or quotes from Angela herself. After that the change in Ms. Whitiker’s life is told about. Becoming a licensed nurse, the woman was able to lead a life of higher quality and was happy for a while. However, she realized with time that real middle-class life differed a lot from what she imagined. The family still had to make tough financial choices, shop in cheap stores and work rather hard to make the ends meet. The decisions Angela had to make about her family were also hard in her “new” life. For instance, she had to forbid one of her sons to come to their new home until he quit the drug-dealing.
At the end of the article the author leads the readers to believe that middle-class social status requires wise decisions on the everyday basis. At the same time, ending with Angela’s quote, the article stresses the importance of family in any situation.
It is truly remarkable how a broad societal issue can be presented through a single narrative. This is what the author of the given article has managed to achieve. As the title suggest, this is the story of one women’s struggle to move from the so-called welfare class to a middle-class. The beginning of the article suggests that this would be a success story and a kind of reaffirmation that lots of things are possible for the ones who try their best. However, as the story unfolds, the claim of the author seems to weaken as the audience becomes aware of the stumbling blocks on the way to higher social status.
At the first glance, the experience of Angela Whitiker looks remarkable. A girl without any education and five children without a husband to rely on managed to lift herself from that abyss and give her children a chance for a better life. She gained all that she ever wanted – a family and a well-paid job that provided for decent life. However, examining the details of the story one can see that the woman made a lot of sacrifices along the way, changed her attitudes to people around her and lost important things.
To start with, the middle-class was far from the imagined world where people can afford a range of different things. Angela had to work at night to have higher salary and eventually she even had to get a second job to cover all the family expenses. The choice between one alternative and the other was still present even in the new life. The example where she as a mother had to choose between a daughter’s prom expenses and a telephone bill is quite illustrative. People sometimes tend to associate the life they do not currently have with a world of endless possibilities and choices. The fact is, though, that in almost any situation in life one would have the things that limit the choices, the freedom, and the possibilities. It is true that the education and family gave Angela an opportunity to move from a gang-dominated neighborhood. This fact cannot be neglected because it is undeniably a significant improvement. On the other hand, it is outright naive to expect that the pressure of money or limited choices will be cured by middle-class status.
Furthermore, throughout the article there are indications of how Whitiker’s attitude changed. When she went back to college, she became more efficient and more determined to prove herself. The woman was forced to compete with the students whose mothers were nurses and who knew a lot of information beforehand. That is why Angela withdrew from her friends and the surroundings. One can only imagine what a damaging effect this might have in a person’s social and family life. At another point of the story it is mentioned how she looked down on less successful people the same way that she was looked down upon not a long time ago. This was disturbing to read because one would expect that a person who went through such difficulties would be able to show more sympathy towards others. This behavior may be explained by the conscious and subconscious desire to cut off everything that reminds of the previous way of living.
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This is also probably the reason why Ms. Whitiker decided to forbid two of her sons to come to her house. Those were her eldest sons who became involved in gang-life and were under constant threat of imprisonment or injury. So, there was a serious price to pay for the relative peace in her new family. This decision evokes conflicting feelings. Certainly, the future of the rest five children (as she now had seven of them) was at stake; and it was important to protect them from the negative influence. Despite this, is should always be remembered where one came from in order to make reasonable choices in the future. So, ignoring the sons who ended up on the streets is ignoring a part of their common family history that should be alive.
All in all, the article does a fairly good job in discussing the issues of movement between social classes. The title and the overall message conveyed by the story are slightly mismatched, though, which creates confusion as to the initial standpoint of the journalist. Without a doubt, in issues like this it is nearly impossible to think logically because in the face of human suffering every argument is futile. However, people should make an attempt to realize that life cannot be seen in form of chunks; it is a continuum with past transgressing into the present, whether we want it or not.
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