Summary Of How The Other Half Lives By Jacob Riis

Words: 747
Pages: 3

Writing Assignment #1

Jacob Riis’ Book How the Other Half Lives

1. It is almost impossible to pick a place to start when asked what surprised me the most about the living situation of the tenement residents. There were so many gruesome aspects of these poor folks’ living arrangements that it made me seriously reevaluate how well we have it nowadays. From the rooms just big enough to “allow the man to pull off his clothes,” to the 7-cent beds made of “canvas strip”, the adjective “grim” doesn’t even begin to depict the atrocities that poor people in the 1890’s had to endure. If I had to pick just one thing that surprised me the most, I would have to say it was the fact that the tenement landlords had SO much power over these poor families’ lives. Riis compared the situation of the tenants to that of mediaeval serfdom. Riis goes on to state that the landlords are simply “not content” with just charging a high price for living, but also can very well dictate their tenant’s income as well, since a lot of the time the landlord was also the occupant’s employer.
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Dens of Death – Photograph 1. If it wasn’t enough for the viewer to take one look at the photograph and immediately understand what it is Riis is trying to shed light on, he went and titled the picture “Dens of Death”. This picture is morbid and perfectly captures the condition of the edifices that the residents lived in. In the photo you can clearly see the erosion of structure in the dens, as well as the cheap paneling, sagging roof, and decrepit