Essay On Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick

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The works of both Horatio Alger and Mark Twain remain some of the most influential in the American literary tradition. One, Alger’s Ragged Dick seems to epitomize the idea of The American Adam: a homeless boot-black works hard, saves his money, and with a little bit of luck becomes a self-made man. The other, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often regarded as “at least a candidate for the Great American Novel, whatever that phrase might mean” (Quirk, The Magazine of The Mizzou Alumni Association). Both novels act, at least to some extent, as a response to some of the social problems faced by Americans of the day. Alger’s Ragged Dick contains advice meant to help homeless adolescent boys rise out of poverty, whereas Twain’s Huckleberry Finn intends to hold a mirror to Americans in the post-reconstruction era South. Additionally, both novels’ protagonists experience a coming of age, which according to some critics exemplifies the novels’ successes at enacting the societal change…show more content…
Through Dick’s coming-of-age, we see what manhood meant to Alger, and how it seemed to differ from the ideals of manhood present in the rest of New York’s society during his time. Whereas it seemingly took only the loss of your parents, or other hardship to have “reached the age of maturity,” for Alger the true nature of adulthood meant belonging to the middle class, and his coming-of-age narrative reflected this (OED). However, Ragged Dick, as a means of changing the culture to allow this boy-to-man transition failed in two more important aspects: it relied heavily on unlikely strokes of luck to further its plot, and it did nothing to change the circumstances that inhibited the growth of the adolescent audience it was intended for, particularly child labor laws and compulsory

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