Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ragged Dick


Horatio Alger was a Unitarian Minister between 1860 - 1866 after which he resigned and decided to move to New York City in order to study and later write about street children (such as those in his tale Ragged Dick). Alger is considered most "famous" in the 1900's and the 1920's. He was seen as very good at symbolizing the American Dream within his writings but he was virtually forgotten by the time that he died in 1899. Alger was trying to portray across two different messages, one for juveniles and another for adult readers. For the juveniles he was saying that they should grasp the opportunities capitalist society offers whilst telling adults that homeless children need the adults' help in order to get anywhere.


After studying street children in New York City, Alger published a series of stories about a boy referred to as "Ragged Dick" which were published in a children's magazine "STUDENT AND SCHOOLMATE" in monthly installments. Many of the characters which were used in his series of tales were based upon real boys he had observed on the New York streets. Later Alger's Ragged Dick tales were published in to a singular book of Dick's story. This novel "reasserts moral ethical core self which is successful". This basically means that throughout the story Ragged Dick is seen to always remain true to his morals and because of this and trying hard he is able to grow up more "'spectible" than he would have if he didn't stick to them. By adding in other characters such as Frank, Mickey McGuire and Edward, Ragged Dick's good nature and "pure-ness" is emphasized even more.


When comparing Johnny Nolan to Ragged Dick, we notice quite a few significant differences. Ragged Dick is willing to work and try hard to get a better life by working on his education, setting up a bank account, saving his money, improving his reading and writing, not sending his hard-earned money on treats such as the theatre or gambling, and throughout the tale he always helps others that he sees to be even less fortunate than himself and sticks to his idea that he will never result to stealing as it is against his morals. Johnny on the other hand is lazy, unwilling to try to better himself, will steal and cheat people out of their money and yet still complains or seems envious when Ragged Dick has more money than him. Even though the boys both come from similar situations, the situation being that they have both lived on the streets and had to look after themselves from a young age (Ragged Dick being only 7 years-old when his father had gone to sea and his mother then die). Alger instals characters within the tale like Johnny Nolan to show us, the reader, how different Ragged Dick could be as well as re-enforcing the ideal of The American Dream.

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