Freedom and Starvation
According to World Vision, it is estimated that there are 160 million victims of child labour worldwide. In an effort to prevent child labour, the U.S. government responded with a bill that proposes to ban goods and products from factories that induce child labour. At a superficial level, the bill seems to be a step in the right direction to reduce child labour. However, in her essay “Live Free and Starve,” Chitra Divakaruni criticises the U.S. bill by casting doubt on its effectiveness, highlighting that the solution is not so simple. Divakaruni highlights that this bill may not necessarily be the solution to prevent child labour. In fact, by banning these products, children lose their jobs, which prevents them from buying the necessities they need in order to survive. Divakaruni effectively conveys this message by utilising sentence structure, methods of development, and rhetorical devices.
To begin, Divakaruni utilises sentence structure to highlight that preventing the import of goods from factories that employ children may not necessarily be a beneficial solution to child labour. For instance, she states “It is easy for us in America to make the error of evaluating situations in the rest of the world as though they were happening in this country and propose solutions that make excellent sense — in the context of our society.” By using a dash in the sentence, Divakaruni emphasises that the solution proposed by the American government only makes sense in the context of Western society. In this case, she highlights that the solution is based on American morals, without a proper understanding of the perspectives of children living in third-world countries. Thus, she casts doubt on how beneficial the bill will be for children employed in these factories. Furthermore, sentence structure is also used when Divakaruni states that the children “could be free and happy, like American children.” However, she immediately opposes this statement, saying “I am not so sure.” By adding such a short sentence, Divakaruni questions if the bill will truly bring children in third-world countries freedom and happiness, drawing attention to the fact that she is hesitant about its effectiveness.
Finally, Divakaruni also states that “[her] mother was a good employer — Nimai ate the same food that we children did and was given new clothes during Indian New Year, just as we were.” Once again, by using a dash, Divakaruni highlights that although Nimai is a child that works for her family, he is treated fairly. Therefore, by using sentence structure, Divakaruni is able to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the U.S. bill.
In addition, Divakaruni also employs various methods of development to support her claim that the U.S. bill may do more harm than good. Firstly, she utilises exemplification when recalling a story about a child, named Nimai, who once worked for her family. She explains that although Nimai’s life was not ideal, he had still been treated with fairness by her family, as he was encouraged to read and write. Furthermore, she mentions that when Nimai “handed the bulk of his earnings over to his father, there was a certain pride in his eye.” In this case, Divakaruni provides an example of a child that is proud to be working for his family. As well, her personal account further emphasises that banning products from child labour factories is harmful, as it puts children out of their jobs, putting them at risk for hunger and exploitation elsewhere. Another method of development Divakaruni employs is compare and contrast when describing Nimai’s life in comparison to other children who are unemployed. For instance, she states “Nimai ate the same food that we children did and was given new clothes during Indian New Year, just as we were.” Comparatively, when describing the unemployed children, she describes their “ribs sticking out through the rags they wore.” In comparison to the lives of the children, Nimai is provided with food and clothes, despite being employed. Thus, Divakaruni compares and contrasts the lives of Nimai and the children to highlight that the U.S. bill will make many children unemployed, leading them to experience extreme hunger and poverty. Through exemplification and compare and contrast, Divakaruni is able to highlight that the U.S. bill will ultimately put children at risk for exploitation elsewhere.
Finally, Divakaruni utilises rhetorical devices, such as rhetorical questions and apostrophe to convince readers that the U.S. government’s bill will cause more harm to children in third-world countries. For instance, she states “a bill like the one we’ve just passed is of no use unless it goes hand in hand with programs that will offer a new life to these newly released children.” She follows this statement up with the question, “But where are the schools in which they are to be educated? Where is the money to buy them food and clothing and medication, so that they don’t return home to become the extra weight that capsizes the already shaky raft of their family’s finances?” By wording the question in such a way, Divakaruni emphasises that children in third-world countries lack proper education, food, clothing, and medication. Furthermore, she highlights that providing children with necessities is the solution the U.S. government must enact to help children in third-world countries, rather than leaving them unemployed. By simply leaving these children without a job and proper programs to help them survive, the U.S. government is simply sending the children into poverty. For example, Divakaruni also states “And when many of these children turn to the streets, to survival through thievery and violence and begging and prostitution – as surely in the absence of other options they must — are we willing to shoulder that responsibility?” In this rhetorical question, Divakaruni evokes pathos, by allowing readers to question the fate of the children who will no longer be employed due to the U.S. bill. She emphasises that children will be forced to dangerously work for money, putting their lives at risk. In addition, Divakaruni also employs apostrophe, a rhetorical device in which a thought is interrupted by the author to directly address the reader. This is shown when she states “And when he handed the bulk of his earnings over to his father, there was a certain pride in his eye. Exploitation, you might be thinking. But he thought he was a responsible member of his family.” By addressing the readers directly, Divakaruni directs attention to the fact that Nimai believes he is helping his family. Although the readers may view this as exploitation, Divakaruni dispels those thoughts and highlights that the children feel pride in providing for their families. Therefore, by using rhetorical devices, Divakaruni convinces readers that the U.S. bill will be detrimental to children in third-world countries.
In conclusion, by using sentence structure, methods of development, and rhetorical devices, Divakaruni is able to convince readers that the proposed U.S. bill will ultimately be detrimental to children in third-world countries. Divakaruni argues that without jobs to provide them with income, these children will ultimately turn to more dangerous methods to survive. Although the U.S. bill aims to give children freedom from child labour, it ultimately disregards the fate of these children after they become unemployed. Basic necessities such as access to food and education are still unachievable for many children in third-world countries. Therefore, to protect children from child labour in third-world countries, we must first protect children from extreme poverty and provide them with education. It is easy for individuals in first-world countries to assess and solve other issues on the basis of their own beliefs and values. However, applying these beliefs to other countries that face different issues may end up doing more harm than good.