How the Other Half Lives

Topics: United States, Immigration to the United States, American way Pages: 6 (2712 words) Published: November 12, 2013
During the late nineteenth century as industrialization boomed in the West, immigrants from Europe had begun to migrate to the United States. Although living in the United States gave them a better opportunity to succeed, life was not glorious for the European immigrants. Fighting for a better life their were many barriers to their success. Whether it was not being able to speak English, living in the terrible conditions of tenements, or the limitations of being an immigrant life was difficult for the immigrants. Many Americans were oblivious to the conditions that the immigrants had dealt with until the publishing of How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis. How the Other Half Lives was a book that documented the hardships that immigrants faced living in American cities through pictures and observations. Riis gave Americans an opportunity to see what life was really like for an immigrant in living in America. In How the Other Half Lives, Riis showed how immigrants were not entirely different from Americans and he talked about which groups of immigrants were more suited to succeed by assimilating to the American lifestyle. Even with his limits as an observer, Riis was able to accurately depict the lives of immigrants and give a plausible solution on how they can better their situations by becoming true American citizens.

Jacob Riis was born in 1849 in a small rural town in Denmark. In order to marry the love of his life Riis need to improve is financial value so he moved to the United States to find work. Riis had spent time living and roaming around New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois and in doing so he was able to see many different kinds of Americans. In Riis’ opinion the average American is a hard working Christian, who ultimately ends up living in the suburbs, and is on a quest for truth. All Americans ultimately want to better their situation by receiving better jobs. Riis agrees with the notion that, “Americans were fascinated by the objective quest for truth.” Americans want to find their place in life and create a better life for themselves. They are always striving toward upward mobility and a chance to be successful in life. This desire to succeed and the craving for a better life were shared amongst all immigrants. When coming to America the goal in mind for immigrants was to seek a better life and opportunity. Excluding Jewish immigrants, most immigrants also shared the fact that they had Christian backgrounds. By sharing some of these principles it gives certain immigrants an advantage in assimilating to the American culture giving them a better chance to succeed. One group that is likely to adapt well to American culture and quickly integrate in to society are the Irish. The Irish are likely to mold well with the American lifestyle because they are mostly Christians and because of their willingness for a better life. Riis says, ”The Irishman does not naturally take kindly to tenement life, though with characteristic versatility he adapts himself to its conditions at once.” Due to the fact the Irish are not satisfied with tenement life and they want to do better convinces me that they are likely to become true Americans. Being that the Irish share multiple similarities to Americans it is likely that they can transition to America with more ease. Another group that I believe are more likely to become “American” are the Germans. The reason behind this is that the Germans are also mostly Christian giving them a chance to fit in more with majority of Americans. On top of that Germans are also smart and have a willingness to succeed. Riis says, “Unlike the German, who begins learning English the day he lands a matter of duty…” The Germans want to succeed and they know in order to do that they must learn English. By learning English they are in a better position to integrate more with Americans. Also Riis says, “The German rag-picker of thirty years ago, quite as low in the scale as his Italian...
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