Jacob A. Riis - How the Other Half Lives Essay

Words: 1084
Pages: 5

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 …show more content…
He focused purely on the housing and the conditions of it. One of the examples of the conditions in the book refers to how dusty and full of dirt the buildings are. On page 81, one of the tenement buildings caught fire but was smothered out before it could spread throughout the complex, with all the dirt inside the fire had no oxygen to keep the blaze going. "'Why, don't you know,' he said, ‘that house is the Dirty Spoon? It caught fire six times last winter, but it wouldn't burn. The dirt was so thick on the walls, it smother the fire!'" The showing of these conditions that the lodgers lived in was a way of telling the people that the stereotypes of them are because of their living conditions. They are that way because the conditions make them that way. If they could be in decent homes they could be good, clean and maybe even have middle class status. All the city and landlords needed to do was to reform the housing and it would have solved all the cities problems. The first step would be in trying to get the landlords from exploiting the renters and start respecting them enough to care how they live. Once that was done you could take the care they discovered for those people and use it to better their homes. And the city would well be on it's way to improvement.
Riis writes his book effectively and manages to grasp the attention of the nation with his exposé of real life