50 Hillbilly Elegy Quotes With Page Numbers

Hillbilly Elegy quotes show how personal power and education can overcome adversities.

In ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ J.D. Vance provides an insightful personal analysis of the white working-class culture in America through his life story.

Raised in a post-industrial Ohio town, Vance navigates through the struggles of a brutal childhood marked by poverty, constant moving, and a mother battling addiction while reaching out for a better future.

Throughout the narrative, he explores the importance of cultural heritage, the impact of social, regional, and class decline on white working-class Americans, and their challenges.

A picture of a log cabin in the woods, with the text overlay: "Hillbilly Elegy Quotes With Page Numbers"

 

Hillbilly Elegy Quotes With Page Numbers 

“Today people look at me, at my job and my Ivy League credentials, and assume that I’m some sort of genius, that only a truly extraordinary person could have made it to where I am today. With all due respect to those people, I think that theory is a load of bullshit.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Introduction, Page 2

 

“That is the real story of my lift, and that is why I wrote this book. I want people to know what it feels like to nearly give up on yourself and why you might do it. I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children. I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it. I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels. And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Introduction, Page 2

 

“social mobility isn’t just about money and economics, it’s about a lifestyle change. The wealthy and the powerful aren’t just wealthy and powerful; they follow a different set of norms and mores. When you go from working-class to professional-class, almost everything about your old life becomes unfashionable at best or unhealthy at worst.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Introduction, Page 4

 

“Nearly every person you will read about is deeply flawed. Some have tried to murder other people, and a few were successful. Some have abused their children, physically or emotionally. Many abused (and still abuse) drugs. But I love these people, even those to whom I avoid speaking for my own sanity. And if I leave you with the impression that there are bad people in my life, then I am sorry, both to you and to the people so portrayed. For there are no villains in this story. There’s just a ragtag band of hillbillies struggling to find their way – both for their sake and, by the grace of God, for mine.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Introduction, Page 9

 

“There is nothing lower than the poor stealing from the poor. It’s hard enough as it is. We sure as hell don’t need to make it even harder on each other.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 1, Page 16

 

“So, to Papaw and Mamaw, not all rich people were bad, but all bad people were rich.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 2, Page 34

 

“Mamaw and Papaw believed that hard work mattered more. They knew that life was a struggle, and though the odds were a bit longer for people like them, that fact didn’t excuse failure. “Never be like these f****** losers who think the deck is stacked against them,” my grandma often told me. “You can do anything you want to.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 2, Page 36

 

“But yeah, like everyone else in our family, they could go from zero to murderous in a f****** heartbeat.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 3, Page 40

 

“Efforts to reinvent downtown Middletown always struck me as futile. People didn’t leave because our downtown lacked trendy cultural amenities. The trendy cultural amenities left because there weren’t enough consumers in Middletown to support them.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 4, Page 52

 

“A lot of students just don’t understand what’s out there,” she told me, shaking her head. “You have the kids who plan on being baseball players but don’t even play on the high school team because the coach is mean to them.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 4, Page 55

 

“People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown. You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than twenty hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 4, Page 57

 

“In my immature brain, I didn’t understand the difference between intelligence and knowledge. So I assumed I was an idiot.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 4, Page 59

 

“I remember watching an episode of The West Wing about education in America, which the majority of people rightfully believe is the key to opportunity. In it, the fictional president debates whether he should push school vouchers (giving public money to schoolchildren so that they escape failing public schools) or instead focus exclusively on fixing those same failing schools. That debate is important, of course—for a long time, much of my failing school district qualified for vouchers—but it was striking that in an entire discussion about why poor kids struggled in school, the emphasis rested entirely on public institutions. As a teacher at my old high school told me recently, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 5, Page 61

 

“Mamaw and Papaw ensured that I knew the basic rules of fighting: You never start a fight; you always end the fight if someone else starts it; and even though you never start a fight, it’s maybe okay to start one if a man insults your family. This last rule was unspoken but clear.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 5, Page 66

 

“Religious folks are much happier. Regular church attendees commit fewer crimes, are in better health, live longer, make more money, drop out of high school less frequently, and finish college more frequently than those who don’t attend church at all.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 6, Page 92

 

“Despite its reputation, Appalachia—especially northern Alabama and Georgia to southern Ohio—has far lower church attendance than the Midwest, parts of the Mountain West, and much of the space between Michigan and Montana. Oddly enough, we think we attend church more than we actually do. In a recent Gallup poll, Southerners and Midwesterners reported the highest rates of church attendance in the country. Yet actual church attendance is much lower in the South.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 6, Pages 95-96

 

“the deeper I immersed myself in evangelical theology, the more I felt compelled to mistrust many sectors of society. Evolution and the Big Bang became ideologies to confront, not theories to understand.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 6, Page 96

 

“To this day, being able to “take advantage” of someone is the measure in my mind of having a parent. For me and Lindsay, the fear of imposing stalked our minds, infecting even the food we ate. We recognized instinctively that many of the people we depended on weren’t supposed to play that role in our lives, so much so that it was one of the first things Lindsay thought of when she learned of Papaw’s death. We were conditioned to feel that we couldn’t really depend on people—that, even as children, asking someone for a meal or for help with a broken-down automobile was a luxury that we shouldn’t indulge in too much lest we fully tap the reservoir of goodwill serving as a safety valve in our lives.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 7, Page 104

 

“They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 8, Page 127

 

“We don’t study as children, and we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. Our kids perform poorly in school. We might get angry with them, but we never give them the tools—like peace and quiet at home—to succeed.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 9, Page 147

 

“We’ll get fired for tardiness, or for stealing merchandise and selling it on eBay, or for having a customer complain about the smell of alcohol on our breath, or for taking five thirty-minute restroom breaks per shift. We talk about the value of hard work but tell ourselves that the reason we’re not working is some perceived unfairness: Obama shut down the coal mines, or all the jobs went to the Chinese. These are the lies we tell ourselves to solve the cognitive dissonance—the broken connection between the world we see and the values we preach.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 9, Page 147

 

“We talk about the value of hard work but tell ourselves that the reason we’re not working is some perceived unfairness: Obama shut down the coal mines, or all the jobs went to the Chinese. These are the lies we tell ourselves to solve the cognitive dissonance—the broken connection between the world we see and the values we preach.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 9, Page 147

 

“Not all of the white working class struggles. I knew even as a child that there were two separate sets of mores and social pressures. My grandparents embodied one type: old-fashioned, quietly faithful, self-reliant, hardworking. My mother and, increasingly, the entire neighborhood embodied another: consumerist, isolated, angry, distrustful.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 9, Page 148

 

“Psychologists call it “learned helplessness” when a person believes, as I did during my youth, that the choices I made had no effect on the outcomes in my life.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 10, Page 163

 

“Psychologists call it “learned helplessness” when a person believes, as I did during my youth, that the choices I made had no effect on the outcomes in my life. From Middletown’s world of small expectations to the constant chaos of our home, life had taught me that I had no control. Mamaw and Papaw had saved me from succumbing entirely to that notion, and the Marine Corps broke new ground. If I had learned helplessness at home, the Marines were teaching learned willfulness.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 10, Page 163

 

“I don’t believe in epiphanies. I don’t believe in transformative moments, as transformation is harder than a moment. I’ve seen far too many people awash in a genuine desire to change only to lose their mettle when they realized just how difficult change actually is.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 10, Page 173

 

“whenever people ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 10, Page 177

 

“But there’s something powerful about realizing that you’ve undersold yourself—that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 10, Page 177

 

“I’m not saying ability doesn’t matter. It certainly helps. But there’s something powerful about realizing that you’ve undersold yourself—that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability. This is why, whenever people ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.” The Marine Corps excised that feeling like a surgeon does a tumor.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 10, Page 177

 

“Mamaw always had two gods: Jesus Christ and the United States of America. I was no different, and neither was anyone else I knew.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 11, Page 189

 

“If you believe that hard work pays off, then you work hard; if you think it’s hard to get ahead even when you try, then why try at all? Similarly, when people do fail, this mind-set allows them to look outward. I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early. I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the “Obama economy” and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them. His status in life is directly attributable to the choices he’s made, and his life will improve only through better decisions. But for him to make better choices, he needs to live in an environment that forces him to ask tough questions about himself. There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 11, Page 193

 

“There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 11, Page 194

 

“What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 11, Page 194

 

“There is no group of Americans more pessimistic than working-class whites. Well over half of blacks, Latinos, and college-educated whites expect that their children will fare better economically than they have. Among working-class whites, only 44 percent share that expectation.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 11, Page 194

 

“There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 11, Page 194

 

“Our large group left an awful mess…I couldn’t imagine leaving it all for some poor guy to clean up, so I stayed behind. Of a dozen classmates, only one person helped me: my buddy Jamil…I told Jamil that we were probably the only people in the school who’d ever had to clean up someone else’s mess.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 12, Page 203

 

“At Yale Law School, I felt like my spaceship had crashed in Oz. People would say with a straight face that a surgeon mother and engineer father were middle-class. In Middletown, $160,000 is an unfathomable salary; at Yale Law School, students expect to earn that amount in the first year after law school. Many of them are already worried that it won’t be enough.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 12, Page 205

 

“We do know that working-class Americans aren’t just less likely to climb the economic ladder, they’re also more likely to fall off even after they’ve reached the top. I imagine that the discomfort they feel at leaving behind much of their identity plays at least a small role in this problem. One way our upper class can promote upward mobility, then, is not only by pushing wise public policies but by opening their hearts and minds to the newcomers who don’t quite belong.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 12, Page 206

 

“interviews showed me that successful people are playing an entirely different game. They don’t flood the job market with résumés, hoping that some employer will grace them with an interview. They network. They email a friend of a friend to make sure their name gets the look it deserves. They have their uncles call old college buddies. They have their school’s career service office set up interviews months in advance on their behalf. They have parents tell them how to dress, what to say, and whom to schmooze.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 13, Page 214

 

“Nothing compares to the fear that you’re becoming the monster in your closet.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 14, Page 224

 

“You can’t just cast aside family members because they seem uninterested in you. You’ve got to make the effort, because they’re family.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 14, Page 226

 

“Children with multiple ACEs are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression, to suffer from heart disease and obesity, and to contract certain types of cancers. They’re also more likely to underperform in school and suffer from relationship instability as adults. Even excessive shouting can damage a kid’s sense of security and contribute to mental health and behavioral issues down the road.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 14, Page 227

 

“For kids like me, the part of the brain that deals with stress and conflict is always activated… We are constantly ready to fight or flee, because there is a constant exposure to the bear, whether that bear is an alcoholic dad or an unhinged mom (p228)….I see conflict and I run away or prepare for battle.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 14, Page 228

 

“A good friend…once told me, “The best way to look at this might be to recognize that you probably can’t fix these things. They’ll always be around. But maybe you can put your thumb on the scale a little for the people at the margins.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 14, Page 228

 

“How much of our lives, good and bad, should we credit to our personal decisions, and how much is just the inheritance of our culture, our families, and our parents who have failed their children? How much is Mom’s life her own fault? Where does blame stop and sympathy begin?”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 14, Page 231

 

“Pajamas? Poor people don’t wear pajamas. We fall asleep in our underwear or blue jeans. To this day, I find the very notion of pajamas an unnecessary elite indulgence, like caviar or electric ice cube makers.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Conclusion, Page 249

 

“As a cultural emigrant from one group to the other, I am acutely aware of their differences. Sometimes I view members of the elite with an almost primal scorn—recently, an acquaintance used the word “confabulate” in a sentence, and I just wanted to scream. But I have to give it to them: Their children are happier and healthier, their divorce rates lower, their church attendance higher, their lives longer. These people are beating us at our own damned game.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Conclusion, Pages 252-52

 

“People like Brian and me don’t lose contact with our parents because we don’t care; we lose contact with them to survive. We never stop loving, and we never lose hope that our loved ones will change. Rather, we are forced, either by wisdom or by the law, to take the path of self-preservation.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Conclusion, Page 254

 

“I don’t know what the answer is, precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Conclusion, Page 256

 

“One way our upper class can promote upward mobility, then, is not only by pushing wise public policies but by opening their hearts and minds to the newcomers who don’t quite belong.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Chapter 12, Page 256

 

What are the quotes from Hillbilly Elegy about education?

“We don’t study as children, and we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. Our kids perform poorly in school. We might get angry with them, but we never give them the tools—like peace and quiet at home—to succeed.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, Chapter 9, Page 147

 

What are the quotes about the American Dream in Hillbilly Elegy?

“I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it. I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels. And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, Introduction, Page 2

 

“We do know that working-class Americans aren’t just less likely to climb the economic ladder, they’re also more likely to fall off even after they’ve reached the top. I imagine that the discomfort they feel at leaving behind much of their identity plays at least a small role in this problem. One way our upper class can promote upward mobility, then, is not only by pushing wise public policies but by opening their hearts and minds to the newcomers who don’t quite belong.”

~J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, Chapter 12, Page 206

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top