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Essay Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives

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    Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives In How the Other Half Lives, the author Jacob Riis sheds light on the darker side of tenant housing and urban dwellers. He goes to several different parts of the city of New York witnessing first hand the hardships that many immigrants faced when coming to America. His journalism and photographs of the conditions of the tenant housing helped led the way of reformation in the slums of New York. His research opened the eyes of many Americans to the darker side of the nation’s lower class. Though it seems that he blamed both the victims and the board forces of society, I believe that he placed more of the blame on the board forces for the conditions that many immigrants faced.

    In the first few sentences of the introduction of his book, Riis wrote: “Long ago it was said, “One half of the world does not know how the other half lives.” That was true then. It did not know because it did not care. The half that was on top cared little for the struggles, and less for the fate of those who were underneath, so long as it was able to hold them there and keep its own seat.” He is saying that it was the lack of concern from the upper class that caused the lower class to get as bad as it did. Their greed and selfishness caused many of the problems for the lower class. “?the ?system’ that was the evil offspring of public neglect and private greed has come to stay, a storm-centre forever of our civilization.” (p. 6) Riis also thought that the “other half” justly punished the community because the community gave them no other choice. These poorer people did not have the same resources and education opportunity as most of the rest of the classes in America, which many tenemen.

    . . that mold him into what he is. When property owners over price a small “room” for these people, is it the poor man’s fault? The law and community had turned away from the lower class and let things get out of hand. “In this matter of profit the law ought to have its strongest ally in the landlord himself, though the reverse is the case. (p. 211)” In the last paragraph of Riis’s book, Riis states: “The gap between the classes in which it surges, unseen, unsuspected by the thoughtless, is widening day by day. No tardy enactment of law, no political expedient, can close it. Against all other dangers our system of government may offer defense and shelter; against this not. I know of but one bridge that will carry us over safe, a bridge founded upon justice and built of human hearts” (p. 218) We cannot let public neglect and private greed destroy our civilization.

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    Essay Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives. (2018, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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