Jacob A. Riis - How the Other Half Lives

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Jacob Riis' book How the Other Half Lives is a detailed description on the poor and the destitute in the inner realms of New York City. Riis tries to portray the living conditions through the ‘eyes' of his camera. He sneaks up on the people flashes a picture and then tells the rest of the city how the ‘other half' is living. As shocking as the truth was without seeing such poverty and horrible conditions with their own eyes or taking in the experience with all their senses it still seemed like a million miles away or even just a fairy tale.

The reality of this book hit the people of New York right between the eyes. Riis was once ascribed the label of lower class society, but worked his way up the ladder of success and entered into a higher class among humanity. Riis tried to write this book with pure objectivity but given his background and emotional connection to the tenement dwellers it was hard to keep that objectivity throughout his book. The references he uses to describe some of the immigrant live-ins were negative and very much stereotypical. For example on page 92 when he's referring to Italians and their ability to speak, English. "Unlike the German, who begins learning English the day he lands as a matter of duty, or the Polish Jew, who takes it up as soon as he is able as an investment, the Italian learns slowly, if at all." By referring to Italians in such a way gives, the effect that he holds a personal grudge against them. He makes it seem like they have personally offended him by not knowing the English language, when in reality I don't think he cares at all about what they have to say or what they think about him. He feels that if they (Italians or any of the minority groups) come to the United States they should be well briefed enough know the basic communication needs of his language or don't come at all because your wasting his time and frankly just being a pain in the ass. He refers to all the immigration groups in a...
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