How the other half lives

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:History

Document 1

According to Riis, the world of the “other half” was being referred to the slums of the New York. These slums had lots of challenges including diseases, abuse, and immigrants (Lam, 216). As a social reformer and a police, Riis used this opportunity to familiarize himself with the perils of tenement living and saw the need to share his experience with the rest of the world about the horrendous conditions felt during this time. Riis used his camera to take images of the cities to express the terrible living conditions. During the 1890s, the apartments for tenements were used as homes as well as factories for making garments. In addition, the immigration was another cause for the increasing population in American in the 1890s.

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This contributed to the high job seekers than the available jobs at that time. The middle-and the upper-class earners in New York discouraged the poor and associated poverty to be the wish of the poor. The rich Americans of that time used the Carnegies and social Darwin theories to express the myth in describing the poor; they related the poor as too weak, immoral and lazy to rise up in the society. However, Riis felt that slums were the main cause of poverty other than a symbol as most people felt. This was reinforced by Riis when he indicated that every square mile was the most densely populated in the world (Ouellette, 193). His idea was clearly photographed which makes it possible to believe there existed a dense population at the time.

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Furthermore, in 1901, there was a major housing problem ranging from overcrowding to poor flow of air, sanitation and fire safety measures. Very few good things could be seen during that time. Riis described the evolution of this poor housing condition as forty-year effort. For example, Riis describes himself as a victim of crime at a police lodging house when he was homeless, lonely and struggling to secure an income. Riis says he never forgot the brutality and theft he went through and how his dog was clubbed to death by a policeman and himself thrown from the premises. In addition, the images taken by Riis indicated the unclean Bandit’s Roost area called the “Mulberry Bend”. It is described as a notorious haven for crimes and gangs.

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The sweatshop labor carried out within the tenements and the factories located at the Lower East Slide were not comfortable for the large population working in it. This place could only shelter women as his photograph shows a woman sleeping on bare floor without any covering. This was among the terrible condition of the time. Immigration is another big concern from Riis where he describes Ellis Island as the gateway for most immigrants up to about twelve million as inspected from 1892 to 1950s. Many immigrants came from Ireland, German and China. This continuous flow of immigrants created prejudices among the immigrants due to their ethnic and religious differences. Question 4: Riis attitude toward his subjects From the entire work of Riis, it shows his real attitude and concern to most of the places he visited.

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