In Soylent Green, the audience is led to believe that it is the poor that lives in a poor, overpopulated, dystopian world while the rich are left to live in the lap of luxury without a care in the world. On the surface this appears to be true, until detective Thorn stumbles upon the truth and with that, discovers that the poor and the rich really are both living in the same nightmarish dystopian society.
Some of the very earliest images we have in the movie are of Thorn and his partner Sol Roth in their tiny apartment, with only room for one room made of bookshelves and a kitchen/bathroom/bedroom. The oddities are noticeable right off the bat, with Sol telling Thorn how long it had been since he had any actual food to eat and how he didn't like the taste of the Soylent products. But the desperation of New York City doesn't become truly evident until Thorn steps outside his door and has to tip toe his way through a labryinth of sleeping bodies that are piled up every on the staircase leading from Thorn's apartment to the street.
Once outside, the scene does not become much prettier. Where once great skyscrapers and historic landmarks sat, now the whole of New York City appears to be desititue and ruined by time and people. The scene is reminscnent of a third world country, complete with a dusty market that only sells Soylent.