Ragged Dick Characters

Ragged Dick Character List

Ragged Dick

The novel's hero and main character, Ragged Dick is born to socioeconomic misfortune - shining shoes rather than attending school. However, using his wit, charm, appearance, and other talents, he climbs up the social ladder throughout the novel so that ultimately he comes to call himself "Richard Hunter" instead. From the outset, Dick is a determined yet morally upright character who, though constantly striving to climb socially, will not do so by any means. Dick is fundamentally concerned with others' perception of himself; therefore, he largely uses money and status to assay his value, which he determines to have been augmented by the conclusion of Ragged Dick, at which he has a high-paying salary and respected occupation.

Mr. Whitney

A patron of him, Mr. Whitney largely represents Dick's aspirations in both status and money. The patron/client, or rather idol/fanatic relationship is perhaps most poignant in Mr. Whitney's giving Dick a suit; the action represents the transference of Whitney's socioeconomic rank, seen in his suit, to Dick, who previously wore ragged clothes of his lower class.


Largely a foil to Dick, Frank is another youth and nephew of Mr. Whitney. Though Frank to some extent serves as a patron or role model for Dick, convincing him of his filth while Dick is giving him a tour of New York City and giving him a suit as his uncle does, his purpose as a foil is more essential. Where Frank already is in good standing with the higher-ups of society and has been born into a life of comfort, Dick has to work his way into the higher reaches of society and is born into poverty. The attitudes of contentedness and ambition, respectively, that result are essential to the book.

Mickey Maguire

A bully of both Henry and Dick, Mickey Maguire is primarily an example, and victim, of Dick's ambition. Mickey criticized Dick for climbing socially; Dick reacts by pummeling him so as to successful liberate not only himself but also young Henry. Mickey represents the barriers to social mobility in society and in general societal conservatism; his defeat is hence importantly reflective of Alger's viewpoints thereof.

Jim Travis

Primary antagonist of Ragged Dick, Jim Travis tries withdrawing Dick's money from his bank account but is thwarted by Dick and arrested. He largely serves Alger to warn readers of the inevitability failure of greed, sin, malevolence, and lack of education.

James Rockwell

A wealthy businessman whom Dick meets while saving his son from drowning near the book's conclusion, Rockwell is the paragon of a social success in Dick's eyes. Not only does he offer him a respectable job and suit, both of which Dick find to be paramount indications of one's worth, but finalizes Dick's maturation into Richard. In accepting Rockwell's job offer, Dick, or rather Richard, fundamentally changes his identity consummately, concluding his journey from rags to riches.


A shoe-shiner like Dick, Henry becomes his mentee and companion after being liberated from Mickey's bullying. Henry serves as a parallel to Dick in that he likewise ascends the social ladder albeit later on account of his being younger. Further, the relationship between Dick and Henry parallels that of the patrons (Mr. Rockwell and Mr Whitney, primarily) and Dick. Therefore, Henry in general serves as an abstract indicator of the continuum of social mutation and mutability on top of being a concrete sidekick whose operations are complement both Dick's thoughts and actions in modes essential to the plot.

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