The Alienist

957 Words 4 Pages
The Alienist Essay

The Alienist, a novel written by Caleb Carr, takes place in 1896 New York City. The novel follows John Moore, a reporter for the New York Times and an unlikely candidate for the events that proceed in this novel. With the help of Teddy Roosevelt, an alienist named Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a couple of young detectives and a secretary within the New York State police department, Moore finds himself deeply involved in his increasingly dangerous pursuit of a serial murderer. Through the misadventures of John Moore, Caleb Carr argues that late 19th century New York City and America as a whole was on a collision course for disaster. This period of time, coined the ‘Gilded Age,’ is marked by intense social oppression of foreign children.
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(Carr, 77)” . These kind of living conditions were only possible in rear tenements, which were actually outlawed in 1894 because of the inhumane levels of filthiness and decay. Many immigrant families flocked to New York City with dreams of flourishing wealth but without proper government regulation, were ultimately extorted for cheap labor. Children were “seen as miniature adults (Carr, 178)” and held fully responsible for their own behavior. It became socially acceptable for many young children to leave their homes because of a lack of financial support on the part of their parents. Many foreign children living in New York City simply did not have the opportunity to pursue education - they had to feed themselves and their own families. With this notion of the young, it became almost impossible for most immigrant children to work towards building up their own futures. Carr depicts an environment where authority figures during the Gilded Age exploit the poor and - most commonly - immigrant families. This is first seen within the context of the New York City police department as police sergeant Flynn reacts to Giorgio Santorelli’s death. He thinks it useless to investigate Santorelli’s employer and would rather ignore the crime altogether because the “little piece of immigrant trash… gets what’s coming to …show more content…
The killer in this novel, Japheth Dury, was largely a product of this society; Carr describes Dury as “utterly tied to that society … its offspring, its sick conscience. (Carr, 481)” Dury is the embodiment of the deep societal problems that became increasingly apparent towards the end of the Gilded Age. As cultural, economical, and social minorities, children were powerless in the face of authority figures and the predominant cultural

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