Jacob Riis Cotton Tenants Analysis

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Authors Jacob Riis and James Agee are widely known for their ability to create a vision of the life experiences of impoverished people in specific times and areas in United States history. One of the most common situations poor people find themselves in is working under the control of a landowner or landlord. Chapter twelve of Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives and James Agee’s Cotton Tenants both describe in detail the lives of poor working families who lives are heavily influenced by who they work for. There are similarities and difference in the way in which these authors depict poverty as they develop their understanding of the connection of the lives of poor working individuals in the Northeastern and Southeastern regions of the United…show more content…
The twelfth chapter of Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives is titled “The Bohemians—Tenement-House Cigar making”. In this chapter, Riis gives depicts the way in which poverty allowed these Bohemian people to take advantage of by their employers and landlords. These Bohemians live in “tenement factories” in which their employer also housed them. Their job was making cigars. Essentially, these housing areas was where the cheapest grade of work could be found. The impoverished worked for extremely low wages mainly because of major issues, such as a language barrier, that hindered their ability to find decent work in the United States. These individuals were being charged unrealistically high rent by the same people who paid them extremely low wages (Riis, Ch. 12). Riis’ is portraying poverty as being a tool that enables people to take advantage of others. Riis tell a story of a man who was blacksmith in is home land but do to his inability to speak English stops him from being able to practice his trade. He and his wife had no other choice but to work a cigar makers with his wife and son. The home they live in has a broken ceiling that their landlord has not fix. Riis assesses their hardship and he finds “miserable wages and the enormous rents exacted for the minimum of accommodation. And surely these stand for enough of suffering” (Riis, Ch. 12). It is apparent that the relationship in which these immigrants in New York had with their landlord was one of disadvantage. The idea of poverty as reflected by the relationship between poor workers and their employers was different for the individuals introduced in James Agee’s Cotton Tenants. These farmers did not own the property that the lived and worked on. They were also required to given portions of their crops to the
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