Ragged Dick Essay, Research Paper
Horatio Alger is remembered as the 19th century novelist who wrote and popularized the American rags to riches story. His first book Ragged Dick tells of a misfortunate boy named Dick Hunter who, through a combination of good ethics, hard work, luck, and help from supporter who believes in him becomes a prosperous and a wealthy young man.
The book Ragged Dick, written in 1867, is about the success story of Dick Hunter. Dick is a bootblack in New York City who is near starvation. He sleeps in the streets every night and wakes up hungry and penniless. He is a shoeshiner who earns just enough to eat after a couple of hours of work in the morning. Alger describes him as a sociable boy with a good sense of humor, but then he wastes the money that he earns by going to nighttime shows or gambling. He is also described as being above doing anything mean or dishonorable. He would not steal, or cheat, or impose upon younger boys, but was frank and straight-forward, manly and self-reliant. His nature was a noble one, and had saved him from all mean faults.
On a very fortunate day, Dick overhears a wealthy businessman talking to his nephew. The nephew had just arrived in the city for a visit, but his uncle has business to attend to and cannot show him the sights. Dick offers to show the boy, Frank, around the city. The businessman accepts the offer, despite Dick’s raggedness, because he can see that Dick is honest and familiar with New York. Before Dick shows Frank around New York, they insisted that he cleans himself up and wears a suit of Frank’s, so that he will look respectable enough to show Frank around.
While Dick and Frank were walking around the whole city, they shared their own personal stories and history. Just being around Frank, and hearing Frank’s stories of famous men who were once poor but by saving and hard work they were able to make a fortune, Dick begins to think that there is a possibility he could obtain a different kind of life. His goals are motivated and enhanced by his new clothes and his cleanliness. During those few hours they spent together, they encountered many scams. Dick protects Frank from dishonest swindlers that lurk in the streets.
By this time, Dick and Frank had just reached Twenty-fifth Street. Right when they got there they saw a rather peculiar individual. The stranger appeared to have just picked up a pocket book from the sidewalk and seem to look around in a strange and confuse way. When Dick approached him, the man told him that he found this pocket book on that floor. Since there was a sickness in his family, he must get home soon. He proposes that they trade the pocket book for twenty dollars. That way Dick could probably get a reward that would be worth more than twenty dollars. So Dick gave him a bill and received the pocketbook in return. The man took the bill and left in a hurry.
Without even realizing it, Dick had given the man an imitate bank bill that was worth nothing. Dick knew that this was a scam because he had seen many people do it before. This type of scam is called the drop-game. The pocket book had nothing in it except blank sheets of paper. Dick managed to trick the stranger at his own scam. This was one of the important scenes because it shows that Dick knew the city life very well. He is clever and with more education, he could become very successful.
After walking for a few more blocks, they decided to take the Third Avenue car to Central Park. When they got into a crowded car, they sat next to this tempered, middle-aged woman. While Frank was busy looking out the window, the lady was looking for her purse. When she couldn t find it, she jumped to the conclusion that Frank had stolen it. She wanted the conductor to search him. The passengers and conductors didn t seem to think that someone like Frank or Dick would steal her purse. The only reason they formed that opinion is because both Frank and Dick look wealthy. They were well dressed and clean. After finding nothing on them, the lady realized that she had had it in her pocket all along. This proves that their appearance meant everything. It revealed their character and their social status in society.
Afterwards, they went to the Custom House. Suddenly a man that looked confused and nervous addressed them. The countrymen explained his story and it seems that he was the victim of a scam. After finding that out, the stranger looked miserable. Chances are he will never get his money back. So Dick and Frank left the stranger and went on the Wall Street Ferry to Brooklyn.
When they entered the boat, Dick noticed a swindler on board. He knows that this is the same crook that cheated the countryman out of fifty dollars. He approached the swindler and convinced him to give back the money to the countryman. The scared swindler repaid back the money. The countryman was able to get his money back and it was all due to Dick s help. This shows that Dick is sympathetic and kind hearted. People who are honest and noble like Dick should be rewarded.
Right before Frank and Mr. Whitney left, Mr. Whitney tried to give Dick some motivation in life. He told Dick to Remember that your future position depends mainly upon yourself, and that it will be high or low as you choose to make it. Included with his advice, Mr. Whitney gave Dick five dollar to start his dream. With that five dollars, he was determined to save up his earnings. He was ambitious.
After Frank left, Dick’s whole attitude toward life changed. His change in attitude results in pursuit of a better job than bootblacking. He also finds a room instead of living on the street. He started saving up money rather than wasting it. He tries to reach for his dream by learning how to read and write by studying with another boy, Henry, at night. Another gentleman, Mr. Greyson boosts his respectability by introducing him to Sunday school. Through his dedication, he is able to write a letter to his friend Frank.
After months of saving and hard work, he saved more than a hundred dollars. His savings were overheard by a crook that steals for a living. At the end of the story he is still having difficulty finding a different job. But after saving the life of a businessman’s son, the businessman offers to reward him. After Dick tells the businessman of his efforts to improve himself, he is offered an office job at ten dollars per week. This opportunity allowed him to improve his life.
On the other hand, Dick is not the only one that succeeds. His roommate, Henry Fosdick, was also a shoe shiner but had not been able to earn as much as Dick. He lacks some of the qualities that Dick possesses. However, he did have an education that Dick never had. Dick convinces him to change his profession. With Dick s advice, he goes in search of a new job. He saw a help-wanted sign in a hat and cap store. The owner, Roswell Crawford, took a look at Henry and was automatically sure that he was going to turn him down. Luckily, Mr. Greyson came into the store and was glad to give Henry a recommendation. Since Mr. Greyson was wealthy man, Roswell had no choice but to hire Henry. With the help of Mr. Greyson and Dick, he was able to start a new life with a new profession. His weekly salary started with five dollars a week but was gradually increased to six dollars due to his hard work. This proves that Henry was able to gradually improve under the circumstances. Like Dick s success, it was also do to luck.
Every incident in this book was written for a reason. Each had certain significance. They help lead to the point where Dick was determined to overcome his poverty and become a capitalist. Though Dick had a lot of potential, he only needed the help of others like Frank, Mr. Whitney, Mr. Greyson, and Henry to bring it out of him.
Alger’s novels had enormous popular appeal during the period of 1870-1930. This was a time when fortunes and profits were being made and limitless opportunities for advancement existed in the United States’ growing industrial cities. Many Americans during this period became fascinated with acquiring great wealth. Their American dream became defined in terms of wealth and material possessions. But many people wondered how would individuals rise from rags to riches. The reason why the books of Horatio Alger were so popular is because his books provided a step to step method to success.
His views allow people to see that all individuals have their own free will and are able to become a self-made man. Dick was able to discipline himself to prepare for the future even though he is making slow progress. Both in his acquisition of money and knowledge allow him obtain his goals. This is why Alger is often said to promote “middle-class values.” Middle class people tend to improve themselves in society over time.
Another reason why this book became so popular is because people look toward the hero in literature. Dick, the hero, overcomes his status in society. Dick made decisions that change his fortunes and he is a hero who succeeds with help. It can be shown that heroism weakens humanity or altruism . Beyond all this, people believe that they can represent the man who succeeds through his own effort.
Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick was very popular during its time and many people accepted his step by step method to success through hard, honest work. However, most people today would do not accept Alger s philosophy. They would agree that success is not as easy to obtain as Alger describes. In fact, some describe Ragged Dick as discouraging and negative. In today s society, not everyone is offered that kind of opportunity.
In out cruel society today, many different races and minorities are judged differently and suppressed so that they do not have the same opportunities that white Americans do. It is very difficult and almost impossible to rise in social status just because someone like Dick is honest and hard working. His success was all due to the concept of luck and chance encounters.
Throughout the whole novel, the concept of luck plays an important part. Dick had a chance encounter with a wealthy businessman and his nephew, Frank and the father of the drowning boy. If it weren t for these two encounters, Dick might not have been able to succeed. Alger believed that the real key to success was all due to luck.
Since Dick s rise to riches was all due to luck, I don t believe that a misfortune kid can encounter that kind of luck. This proves that not everybody can prosper. However, I do believe that hard work, honesty, and an education will get you somewhere in society. It might not make a poor homeless individual rich overnight but it might help them gradually climb the social ladder over time. Being a middle class person would be better than being in poverty.
Hard, honest work will advance you in society, both financially and personally. By financially, this means you will gain more money. By personal gains in society, this means hard and honest work will earn respect not only from others, but also for yourself. Hard work can be applied to anyone. However, it was Dick s choice to make his own success. Although he is motivated to improve by coming into contact with Frank, his choice is his own.
The book Ragged Dick helps provide us with a glimpse into life in the 19th century. In this book, Horatio Alger provided ideas that support the importance of education, saving, truthfulness, cleanliness, honesty, and virtue. All these fundamentals proved that any common man could turn into the self made man. His positive messages is still carried in American culture today because some people still find it true, inspiring, and reasonable.