A description of the immigrants struggle to adjust to the American culture in the 19th century.

Topics: Chicago, Immigration to the United States, American culture Pages: 3 (905 words) Published: February 13, 2008
Immigrant Struggle

The American Expectation and Immigrant Response

Immigrants often had a difficult and complicated experience when adjusting to life in America. Immigrant families had to find ways to adapt to American society. In some cases immigrants found it necessary to challenge American society. Immigrant ideals were challenged by American values that were pushed on them. Due to these as well as other hardships, immigrants from all walks of life living in America had a genuinely arduous task in adjusting to American life.

One of the many hardships immigrants had to overcome was that of appalling living conditions. They did not make enough wages to afford anything remotely close to comfortable living. However, as Jacob Riis states, this does not corrupt immigrants, however it "is a powerful argument for the optimist's belief that the world is, after all, growing better…" Immigrants use their poor living conditions not as an excuse but as a lightning rod for growth and expansion. They use it as a way to better themselves because they started from the bottom and are working their way up. This challenged American ideals because the majority of Americans did not think it was possible for people to cross social or economic boundaries. Americans also especially did not want the immigrant population to do so because Americans did not see immigrants as equals both socially and economically.

Along with the poor living conditions, another factor in the economic struggle for immigrants was the lack of steady and livable wages. Often times immigrants were forced to work the most difficult and dangerous jobs while making less than desirable wages. In a private letter written back to a relative in Europe, one immigrant wrote that "if I don't earn $1.50 a day, it would not be worth thinking about America…here in America one must work for three horses." It was a difficult task for an immigrant to earn those types of wages. Stating that one had to work for three...
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