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How the other Half Lives by Jacob Riis - Essay Example

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Riis’s view of his subjects
In chapter 13, Riis (253) notes “The old woman lived in a wretched shanty, occupying two mean, dilapidated rooms at the top of a sort of hen-ladder that went by the name of stairs. For these she paid ten dollars a month out of her hard-earned wages as a scrub-woman.” …
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How the other Half Lives by Jacob Riis

Download file to see previous pages... By this, he reveals how the high rent rates verses low wages puts these people in a consistent state of poverty. He also depicts them as people who deserved a better living condition that they were having because of their moral conduct or love for a good life. In chapter 5, He portrays the Italians as being less trouble some, the Germans as being order-loving and the negro as people who loved to live in a good place.
The goal in publishing how the other half lives
Riis’s goal for publishing this book was bring into light the poor living conditions experienced in the Lower East Side of New York City. Riis had seen and even experienced the living conditions experienced by the poor people in the New York City. In 1873, three years after moving into New York, Riis became a police reporter for a magazine called New York Tribune and later moved to the Evening Sun. Having lived in the same surrounding other half lives, the poor people of the city, Riis became convinced that these people were victims of unhealthy surroundings. He therefore attempted to pass a reformist message to his readers, the City’s upper and middle classes through this book.
In chapter 3, he commends, “New York’s wage-earners have no other place to live, more is the pity. They are truly poor for having no better homes; waxing poorer in purse as the exorbitant rents to which they are tied, as ever was serf to soil, keep rising”. He also states “To the false plea that he prefers the squalid homes in which his kind are housed there could be no better answer” (Riis 65).
Riis also realized that the camera was in a better position to achieve what he could not have achieved through his reporting. He therefore bought a camera for himself and persuaded two of his photographer friends to help him make night coverage of the lower East Side of big city, the New York during the night time. Riis was therefore able to achieve his goal by conveying his message through text accompanied by his best images. Why middle and upper class New Yorkers were unaware of these problems The middle and the upper class dwellers of the New York City were not aware of these problems because of the apathy of these monied classes. The middle and the upper class of the city did not live in the slums as the laborers who composed the lower class neither did they visit these places. Some of the people in the slums also obtained their employment in the slums hence they did not need to go the city for example some of them were employed in home-based cigar making. At the same time, reporters had not focused their reporting in these problems. Riis reporting and writing of this book therefore became an eye opener to the middle and upper class to what the lower class were going through. Due to their low wages, the people in the lower east side of the city focused on their survival needs over educational, social and spiritual needs. In chapter 15, a boy states, “We don’t have no clothes to go to church.” He also adds “I don’t go to school.” This means the people and children from the Lower East Side of the City shied away from social places were the upper and middle classes could show up hence they did not mix so much with them. Riis noted that the boy stated this with a snort ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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