Review Of Jacob Riis How The Other Half Lives

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The writings and pictures in Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives offer a vivid portrayal of the poor living conditions of New York's tenement houses and illustrated the necessity for progressive reform in the late 1800s. A vicious cycle held many of the tenants in its grasps through a combination of the landlords' rent prices and a lack of sustainable incomes. To Riis, the landowners looked like “tyrants that sweeten the cup of bitterness with their treacherous poison” (166). In the destitute areas, crime grew rampant, and the poor packed themselves into the tenements. Disease and illness worked adverse to any improvement of living conditions. Monetary concerns pushed the poor of New York to make rash decisions in order to provide for …show more content…

The quote shows that the cycle kept those in charge over the fray while the tenants constantly fell into more debt and disarray. Riis wrote this book and photographed different scenes in New York to show the squalid conditions the tenants lived in. Around the city, the landlords abused their tenants through overpricing and ignorance of poor conditions. On page 132, Riis claims “There is nothing in the prospect of a sharp, unceasing battle for the bare necessities of life to encourage looking ahead, everything to discourage the effort.” The tenants looked forward, out of the darkness of impoverishment, but they saw no viable path to achieve their vision. The vicious cycle came from the tyrannical landlords who “poisoned” the tenants with high …show more content…

Living with people of the same nationality comforted and brought a sense of reassurance to the new life of the immigrants. The police often found themselves dealing in conflicts between different ethnic groups. “These 'dangerous classes' of New York compelled recognition” because of their vast size and possible wealth (209). The recognition turned to power, but the tenants lacked money. The tenants often looked to other, sometimes illegal, ways to earn money and provide for their families, creating ethnic gangs. In discussing these areas of gang feuds, Riis quoted from a man in Chinatown, “trust not him who trusts no one” (78). Trust diminished completely between the different gangs over the years that Riis wrote this book. The lack of trust increased violence around the

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