Nickel and Dimed

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Barbara Ehrenreich

The narrator and protagonist of the book, Barbara Ehrenreich is a middle-aged writer and journalist from Key West, Florida. Relatively well-off, though from a family of humble beginnings, she often uses her personal experience to… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Ruthie
A patient at the Alzheimer's ward in Maine.
Gail
Barbara’s friend and coworker at the Hearthside, who struggles with health issues due to her lack of health insurance.
Joan
The hostess at the Hearthside, whom Barbara especially likes since she’s a feminist.
Phillip
Barbara’s boss and the manager at the Hearthside.
Stu
Barbara’s assistant manager at the Hearthside.
Billy
The red-faced, bad-tempered cook at the Hearthside, who at $10 an hour makes the most of the other workers and lives in his own trailer.
Lionel
The teenaged busboy at the Hearthside from Haiti, whom Barbara likes.
George
The 19-year-old Czech dishwasher at Jerry’s, who has recently immigrated to the United States, and is accused—probably unfairly—of stealing.
Joy
Barbara’s moody and unpleasant manager at Jerry’s.
Vic
The assistant manager at Jerry’s.
Lucy
Barbara’s coworker at Jerry’s.
Carlotta (Carlie)
Barbara’s coworker during her brief stint as a housekeeper.
Karen
A woman whom Barbara speaks to in her attempt to get food vouchers or aid in Portland.
Gloria
Another woman whom Barbara calls as she tries to obtain food aid in Portland.
Pete
Barbara’s coworker at the Woodcrest Residential Center.
Grace
One of the Alzheimer’s patients at Woodcrest.
Letty
Another Alzheimer’s patient at Woodcrest.
Ted
Barbara’s boss and the franchise owner at The Maids, who is obsessed with the bottom line.
Pauline
Barbara’s coworker at The Maids, who has been working there for two years and is crushed when Ted doesn’t acknowledge her work on her last day.
Helen
One of Barbara’s team leaders at The Maids, who has a bad foot.
Holly
Barbara’s coworker at The Maids, who often grows faint from hunger, but who doesn’t seem to appreciate Barbara’s attempts to help her.
Maddy
One of Barbara’s team leaders at The Maids, who is struggling with childcare issues.
Rosalie
One of Barbara’s coworkers at The Maids, a recent high school grad who only eats half a bag of chips for lunch.
Lori
Barbara’s coworker at The Maids.
Marge
Another coworker at The Maids.
Colleen
Another coworker at The Maids.
Hildy
An apartment manager at the Hopkins Park Plaza in Minneapolis.
Roberta
The woman who hired Barbara for a job at Wal-Mart, who is careful not to mention wages unless she’s forced to so as to eliminate prospective employees opportunity to compare wages against other options before they start work.
Paul
Barbara’s prospective boss at Menards in Minneapolis.
Steve
Another prospective supervisor at Menards.
Melissa
Barbara’s coworker at Wal-Mart, and the one she’s closest to.
Howard
The assistant manager at Wal-Mart.
Ellie
Another manager at Wal-Mart.
Stan
A Wal-Mart employee who initially had dreams of going to school while working.
Marlene
Another Wal-Mart employee, who believes Wal-Mart doesn’t treat its employees well.
Isabelle
A Wal-Mart employee whose salary has gone slightly up after working there for two years.
Alyssa
A Wal-Mart employee who is in the same orientation as Barbara.
Caroline
The aunt of Barbara’s New York friend. She had moved from New York to Florida to completely start over; she now lives in Minneapolis and offers help and friendship to Barbara.