Ragged Dick


The text of Ragged Dick is based on the 1868 first book edition, annotated for student readers. "Contexts" begins by looking at Ragged Dick through the lenses of 1860s New York and Alger's own life there. Ragged Dick is a fourteen-year-old bootblack – he smokes, drinks occasionally, and sleeps on the streets – but he is anxious "to turn over a new leaf, and try to grow up 'spectable". He won't steal under any circumstances, and many gentlemen who are impressed with this virtue (and his determination to succeed) offer their aid. Mr. Greyson, for example, invites him to church and Mr. Whitney gives him five dollars for performing a service. Dick uses the money to open a bank account and to rent his first apartment. He fattens his bank account by practicing frugality and is tutored by his roommate Fosdick in the three R's. When Dick rescues a drowning child, the grateful father rewards him with a new suit and a job in his mercantile firm. With this final event, Richard is "cut off from the old vagabond life which he hoped never to resume", and henceforth will call himself Richard Hunter, Esq.

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