Poverty doesn't give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor. (2.54)
When it comes to being poor, Arnold doesn't try to make lemons out of lemonade. He does nothing to justify poverty; that is, he doesn't say that it makes him a stronger or better person. Instead, Arnold views poverty as something incredibly difficult to overcome, a condition that simply reinforces itself.
But my lips and I stopped short when I saw this written on the inside front cover: THIS BOOK BELONGS TO AGNES ADAMS. (4.52)
Junior discovers that his geometry textbook belonged to his mother, Agnes, and that his school is so poor that they have been using the same geometry books for the past 30 years. How does Junior react to this discovery? What would you have done?
Everybody in Reardan assumed we Spokanes made lots of money because we had a casino. But that casino, mismanaged and too far away from major highways, was a money-losing business. In order to make money from the casino, you had to work at the casino.
And white people everywhere have always believed that the government just gives money to Indians.
And since the kids and parents at Reardan thought I had a lot of money, I did nothing to change their minds. I figured it wouldn't do me any good if they knew I was dirt poor.
What would they think of me if they knew I sometimes had to hitchhike to school?
Yeah, so I pretended to be middle class. I pretended I belonged. (17.9-17.13)
Arnold may be poor in Wellpinit, but in Reardan he is "passing" as middle class. To "pass" means to take on a group identity (whether race, class, gender) other than that of your own. For example, a poor person pretending to be rich. How do you think the act of "passing" is messing with how Junior sees himself? (Have a look at figure 17.1.)