Ragged Dick

what is the rags to riches myth? and some examples from the book

what is rags to riches??

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Ragged Dick, first published in 1868, was one of Horatio Alger’s earliest successes. The novel follows what can now be called the traditional Alger formula: a young man -decent, but with no real prospects for the future - manages to use a combination of good luck, hard work, and steadfast morality to make strides toward a life of much greater social and economic standing.

The hero of Ragged Dick is a streetwise boot-black who is homeless but comfortable in his lowly position. Dick enjoys the night life of the Old Bowery, and he seems fairly content to fill his stomach with beefsteak and coffee, and to fall asleep in a doorway or an abandoned wagon every night. A chance meeting with the successful Mr. Whitney and Whitney’s young nephew Frank places Dick in a most fortunate position. He is welcomed into the Whitneys’ rooms at the Astor House, given the means to clean himself up, and presented an almost-new suit of clothes. He is hired as Frank’s guide, and the two young men begin a day of New York City adventure.

Dick’s brief involvement with the Whitneys encourages him to begin making changes in his life. No longer will Dick squander each day’s revenue on plays and gambling at the Old Bowery, and no longer will he assume that book learning is forever out of his reach. From this point forward, Dick will be a frugal young man who sets his sights squarely on personal advancement. As the reader probably expects, Dick is quite successful in his campaign.

Ragged Dick places great emphasis on a number of core values. Alger wrote primarily for children, and his novels maintain a decidedly didactic tone. Dick epitomizes the virtues of humility, honesty, and clean living. His experience suggests that self-motivation and hard work can accomplish truly great things. In less than one year, Dick saves more than one hundred dollars, he becomes a competent reader and an enthusiastic student, and he encourages several other boys to follow his lead in the march toward respectability and success. Dick’s belief in the importance of honest living never falters. Even before he meets the Whitneys, Dick is unwilling to steal. (He feels that doing so is “mean.”) Several times in the novel, Dick is presented the opportunity to get ahead unethically; he refuses every time. Nothing, the reader senses, can prevent an honest, determined young man from succeeding.