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Oct. 13

       Last week, in class we talked about how many people such as Charles Dickens and Philip Hone critically analyzed New York City during the 19th century. Many people that analyzed New York were people who haven’t spent much of their time here to fully understand New York and all its conditions.

          There were many interesting ideas discussed in class. One of them was the reason why Charles Dickens during his trip to New York would depict the city in such a foul way. In Dickens’ work, “America notes for General Circulation,” Dickens describes humans as pigs because he felt that during his trip people were highly self-contained without care for anyone else. During class, we also separated the critics that commented on 19th century New York in two categories, the insiders and outsiders. Those who were classified as the insiders are those such as Philip Hone who actually lived and breathed the city air. The outsiders, on the other hand, looked at the city with a different perspective. Charles Dickens is an example of an outsider who looked at the city and searched for what he thought was the true New York beyond the fancy lights.

          Depending on where you live and the way you observe things, will determine the response you will have to a new environment. The example used before about Charles Dickens was a perfect example. Dickens, originally from England, looked at the city totally different from the way Walt Whitman did, because Whitman lived in the state longer than Dickens had been there. Although he has his own opinion on the city itself, Dickens do not have the right to make generalizations without living in that place and experiencing the good and bad of it. Charles Dickens figured that the way to find the true New York was to dig deep and visit the slums. There he saw how the poor and homeless were treated and further made assumptions about the city of New York as a self-centered one. He wouldn’t have known that beyond the slums and the bright city lights there dwells people who in fact give, donate, and help out those in need. Although there may be people who are less interested in the labor it takes to provide for the poor, there are many more that enjoy and live to assist the needy in any way possible.

Personally, after I read Charles Dickens’ thoughts about his journey to New York, I got offended because he made an acute generalization about the city without really experiencing the good things it has to offer. Dickens criticized New York in his book for being selfish and uncivilized but yet still calls them “a great republican.” (From American Notes for General Circulation) He called the people of New York pigs who are worried about their own. America for what he saw was dirty. New York, just like any other city has its good and bad, but to make generalizations without living here isn’t a good way to get acquainted with a city such as New York. New York is a fast-paced city so I could understand that there aren’t as many people to take care of the poor as there should be. But classifying New York by the number of poor people in the city isn’t an effective way to describe New York.

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