Jacob Riis's 'How The Other Half Life'

1399 Words6 Pages
The dramatic economic expansion that American experienced during industrialization led to the creation of the extremely poor and the extremely rich. During the Progressive Era, New York faced overpopulation distribution and overcrowding of living arrangements in the city due to the migration. Inevitably, the class division in terms of the economy and social amongst the people made it impossible for Americanization of becoming together as a nation. Jacob Riis, and immigrant himself, a photojournalist and most important, a social reformer exposed the abuse and poor treatment of the tenements in New York City through his work How the Other Half Lives. He utilized the use of flash photograph, allowing him to capture and communicate in a very specific…show more content…
It becomes impossible for one to rise up in the social structure when it can be considered a miracle to live passed the age of five. Even if one did live past the age of five, it was highly likely he/she would become a criminal, since essentially all of them come from the tenements. Riis asserts that the tenants had no choice but to behave the way they did. Instead, the landlords are the ones held responsible as they manipulated the tenement environment. Riis claims that landlords “frequently urged the filthy habits of the tenants as an excuse for the condition of their property, utterly losing sight of the fact that it was the tolerance of those habits which was the real evil, and that for this they themselves were alone responsible.” The landlords took every advantage of the tenements as they could. They set rent at an senseless price for the poor who were struggling to survive. When these poor tried to bargain or ask for mercy on their rent, they were simply told to either pay up or move out. Although there were several attempts at improving and enforcing the standard of living in the tenements through the power of the law police, sanitation, and health board raids, these efforts did little if anything to improve the situation. It was also a major problem that the landlords fought the improvement and reform of their tenements in everyway so that they wouldn’t…show more content…
Principal among his solutions was housing reform, not just the making of laws to limit the number of people who could be packed into a given living space, but also the destruction or renovation of old buildings. Riis also believed that the landlords must be subject to law and punishment for their malpractice. He suggest that the states have the power to regulate and control of overcrowding and that the tenements and the landlords set a fair ground between them. The following proposals mean that the landlords must set the rent at a reasonable price for both the tenants and the landlords, and provide appropriate repairs and necessities when needed. Accordingly, the tenants must show respect and take care of their home with proper treatment. Riis, however, believed that building new models of tenements was the best option. With improved designs, the new tenements would not only prove to help the poor and be a social success but also increase the profit and be a business success as
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