The name Coalhouse Walker is a reference to the German novella Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist, published in 1811. The part of the story involving Coalhouse's humiliation, and his increasingly unbalanced search for a dignified resolution, closely follow the plot and details of the earlier work by Kleist. The connection was acknowledged by Doctorow, but it is a matter of opinion among critics whether this constitutes literary adaptation or plagiarism.
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