Essay on Summary Of ' Self Definitions ' By William T. Vollmann
6 September 2016
Summary of "Self-Definitions"
William T. Vollmann, in the first section titled “Self-Definitions” of his book Poor People, through a series of interviews, research, and self-examination attempts to define the concept of poverty and what makes people poor. In the introduction of the book, the author states that he is looking for the “similarities and differences in the experiences of being poor" (Vollmann 2). He admits that while other writers have experienced poverty he, himself, has not. Vollmann is found in every chapter asking those he interviews why they believe they are in their situation and whether or not they believe they are poor.
The first chapter takes place with Vollmann traveling in Klong, Toey, Thailand with his interpreter. The beginning of the book mostly focuses on a woman, Sunee, who struggles with alcoholism. As he interviews Sunee, it is apparent that Sunee has given alcohol a prominent place in her life exclaiming that her daughter is good, her mother is good, and she is a drunk (Vollmann 5). As we read through the chapter, we catch glimpses of interviews with others from Vollmann’s journey, and we see a recurring theme within these characters. Most of the individuals interviewed, including Sunee and her family, blame their situation on either destiny or other some other external cause. For example, Sunee’s mother indicates that “Buddhists like her daughter, she knew that her past experiences…