How The Other Half Lives

1916 Words8 Pages
Well done, Jacob Riis, well done. In the book How the Other Half Lives, published in 1890, harsh criticisms and observations, along with photojournalism, of the appalling conditions of New York City tenements and their neighborhoods are examined through the eyes of Jacob Riis. As a reporter at the time for The New York Tribune, his writing and photography sparked reform and forced many people, even the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, to focus their attention on the horrendous conditions in which the immigrants of tenement neighborhoods lived in. Many immigrants have Jacob Riis to thank for in part, for he helped shine a bright light on them at a time when many others kept them in the darkness. Just as the Bible’s opening chapter is named Genesis, Riis’s aptly named opening chapter, “Genesis of the Tenement,” gives a brief history on how the tenements came to be in the city and sets the scene for one of the most notorious slums in New York City, Five Points. Throughout the first several chapters, Riis talks in general of the dire situation of the people living in the tenements and the tenements themselves. He then goes on to discuss the Italians, Irish, Chinese, Jews, Arabs, blacks, women, and children within these tenements separately chapter by chapter. One may notice the copious amounts of stereotypes, prejudice in some sense, he uses when writing about the Italians, Irish, Chinese, and Jews. However, one has to remember the fundamental reason of his writing when reading
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