How The Other Half Lives Is Hailed As The Defining Text

Decent Essays
How the Other Half Lives is hailed as the defining text in promoting awareness and civil action to improve the living conditions of the lower classes. The excerpt and images appeal to the audience’s emotion and sense of Christian service. Riis appeals to his audience through his words and accompanying pictures. He describes the lives of the tenement women and children, the most vulnerable of society. He focuses on the visible negative characteristics of his subjects’ poverty: abuse, hunger, disease, the inability to care for their families, and death. The sensory discretions in the excerpt like the following: A flight of stairs. You can feel your way, if you cannot see it. Close? Yes! What would you have? All the fresh air that ever…show more content…
Riis also assumes his audience has a desire to care for those who are less fortunate. This care comes from Jesus’s instruction to “love the least of these” and to care for the “widows and orphans.” It is the role of Christians or those sharing this moral philosophy to help those who are in trouble and who cannot care for themselves. Although this can easily devolve into elitism and messiah complexes, it spurs the reader to action. They cannot sit by and not help the babies dying of disease or the children who only know abuse and pain. It also presents hope. The situations may seem hopeless, but if the reader cares and takes action, the circumstances of the people in How the Other Half Lives can change and improve.
2. Rii’s point in these pictures and the excerpt is clear. The living conditions and circumstances of the poor in America’s cities are deplorable. The poor strive for dignity and to make a better life for themselves and their families, but everything is working against them. They cannot afford to live or care for their children despite working hard, long hours. They want to be respectable, but everything works against them. If nothing changes in their circumstances, their only escape is vice like the saloon mentioned in the excerpt. If the reader does not take action, their will always be an “other half” and their condition will not change.
3. Riis is trying to influence those who do not have first hand experience with the slums and
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