Why Riis’ Stereotypical Style was Successful

Why Riis’ Stereotypical Style was Successful - Page 1...

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Page 1 Victor Mathieux Barenek Due: 10/19/2007 First Essay Assignment Why Riis’ Stereotypical Style was Successful Was Jacob Riis being hypocritical when he called for housing and social reform because he himself used discriminatory language when describing the different groups of New York City? Despite Jacob Riis’ descriptions seeming bias, his stereotypical yet sympathetic interpretations of different groups are convincing and had an impact on society because Riis was aware of his style of writing and Riis was not a member of any of the groups he wrote about. As stated in the introduction, Riis is Danish, and Danish people were not one of the groups that Riis spoke about. Riis focused more specifically on the larger groups of people who populated New York City in the late 1800s. Riis analyzed and criticized the habits and ways of living of the Italians, Jews, Bohemians, Chinese, and African Americans in relation to the areas they inhabited. The first group that Riis describes is the Italians. He makes many stereotypical remarks about the Italian male but these remarks all have a purpose. For example, Riis states that “The [Italian] man is so ignorant that, as one of the sharpers who prey upon him put it once, it ‘would be downright sinful not to take him in.’ His ignorance and unconquerable suspicion of strangers dig the pit into which he falls.” (Riis, 42) Even though Riis is unjust in claiming that all Italians are ignorant, his comment serves a purpose. His statement reveals to the reader that other Americans took advantage of
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Page 2 Italians, by exploiting their ignorance, which in part led to their poor living conditions. Riis doesn’t only describe the Italians negatively. He also states that the Italians are very honest and that the women are faithful wives. (Riis, 45) Since Riis is not Italian the reader accepts the details as facts rather than opinions. If Riis was Italian and said that Italians are honest then that wouldn’t be as reliable. However since Riis is not Italian
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This essay was uploaded on 04/22/2008 for the course ENG WR 100 taught by Professor Dontremember during the Spring '08 term at BU.

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Why Riis’ Stereotypical Style was Successful - Page 1...

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