Here, he describes poverty in New York. It did not know because it did not care.
Interestingly, he devotes entire chapters to specific immigrant nationalities such as the Italians, the Jews, the Chinese, and the Bohemians. As for which groups Riis thought more capable of becoming good Americans, we will have to refer to his writing. It is important to remember that Riis often expressed seemingly contradictory opinions about specific immigrants.
In his book, Jacob Riis delineates the experiences of new immigrants to America in the 19th Century. Take the Italian immigrant. Riis states that the Italian immigrant is the perfect slum tenant: He not only knows no word of English, but he does not know enough to learn.
Rarely only can he write his own language. 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.
For the Chinese, Riis laments that this group of immigrants will never adopt the true spirit of America.
It is important to note here that Riis was very much a product of his time, despite being an immigrant himself. I state it in advance as my opinion, based on the steady observation of years, that all attempts to make an effective Christian of John Chinaman will remain abortive in this generation; of the next I have, if anything, less hope.
Ages of senseless idolatry, a mere grub-worship, have left him without the essential qualities for appreciating the gentle teachings of a faith whose motive and unselfish spirit are alike beyond his grasp There is nothing strong about him, except his passions when aroused.
The average Chinese immigrant, Riis notes, is like a chameleon. I am convinced that he adopts Christianity, when he adopts it at all, as he puts on American clothes, with what the politicians would call an ulterior motive, some sort of gain in the near prospect. Intrinsic above all else, Riis claims that many of these immigrants, whether Italian, Chinese, Jewish, Bohemian, Russian, or French, cannot fully realize the American dream while they live in squalor.
While Riis advocated for better housing options for beleaguered immigrants through his award-winning photo-journalism, he states that the poor also need to rise up to certain expectations.
Riis gives the example of one philanthropist who spared no money to outfit his tenement building with the latest improvements. However, his efforts produced baffling results because he neglected to properly educate his tenants about his expectations for them.
He introduced his rough tenants to all this magnificence without taking the precaution of providing a competent housekeeper, to see that the new acquaintances got on together.
He felt that his tenants ought to be grateful for the interest he took in them. They found the boards in the wood-closets fine kindling wood, while the pipes and faucets were as good as cash at the junk shop.
In three months the owner had to remove what was left of his improvements. The pipes were cut and the houses running full of water, the stationary tubs were put to all sorts of uses except washing, and of the wood-closets not a trace was left. The philanthropist was ever after a firm believer in the total depravity of tenement-house people.
Riis contrasts the above with the experiences of successful tenement owners who took the trouble to improve housing conditions for their immigrant tenants while simultaneously improving the general atmosphere of their housing tenements.
For example, criminal influences were studiously eradicated and standards for behavior established for tenants. With lower crime and less squalid living conditions, many of these immigrants flourished.How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York () is an early publication of photojournalism by Jacob Riis, documenting squalid living conditions in New York City slums in the s.
"How the Other Half Lives" by Jacob Riis. Maggie's tragic fate pays homage to the true grit of life inside the tenement buildings. the American heiress soon finds herself the target of a. The True Grit of American Life in How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis.
1, words. 3 pages. The Darker Side of Tenant Housing and Urban Dwellers in the Book "How the Other Half Lives" by Jacob Riis. 1, words. 3 pages.
Sympathy and Poor Judgement in Jacob Riis' Book "How the Other Half Lives". How the other half lives: NYC tenement life in the late by Jacob Riis Half Life The other half READING - QUOTES Life photography Living in New York Books To Read My . Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives () Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives () Jacob Riis, a Danish immigrant, combined photography and journalism into a powerful indictment of poverty in America.
(3) I make this same point about the Steffens passage in a previous article on Riis: "Walking the Ethnic Tightwire: Ethnicity and Dialectic in Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives." Journal of American Culture 20 ():