How Does Doctorow Show Injustice In Ragtime

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William Hyer Winter 2014 English 1 Honors Mr. Gilligan Midterm Paper Injustice is existent in all societies, sometimes more prevalent, other times less. In the novel Ragtime, written by E.L. Doctorow, set in the early 1900’s, injustice is particularly dominant. The words of Robert Kennedy especially apply to this book: “Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope”. In Ragtime, the African American population is greatly looked down upon, receiving a much harsher treatment than other races. Coalhouse Walker, a dignified African American, has tried consistently to avoid mistreatment due to race, dressing in good clothes…show more content…
However, when his car is vandalized by firemen, Coalhouse is directly exposed to injustice. When Coalhouse walks to the firehouse in hopes of getting his car repaired, the police chief, who was then present, “had now begun to appreciate Coalhouse’s style of speech, his dress, and the phenomenon of his owning a car in the first place. He grew angry” and replied “If you don’t take your automobile and get along out of here...I’m going to charge you with driving off the road, drunkenness, and making an unsightly nuisance” (Page 178). If it were a white man who had the complaints, the police chief would take action. Instead, the chief creates false accusations to get rid of Coalhouse and end the complaints right there and then, instigating another instance of injustice. To protest against the incident, Coalhouse “went to see three different attorneys recommended by Father”, and due to his skin color, “in all three cases they refused to represent him” (Pg. 183). Even those who are supposed to represent justice, refuse to accept the case because of the race of their potential client. After the death of his wife-to-be, Coalhouse decides to take a stand, and recognizes that the only way he could be heard is through bold decisions, largely…show more content…
Robert Kennedy’s quote also applies specifically to this book. Kennedy says, "Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” Antigone and Ismene are fighting Creon’s ban on the burial of their brother. Antigone would rather die than allow the injustice against her family to continue and therefore buries her brother, despite the ban. Inspired by her courage, and as a result of the “ripple of hope” created by Antigone, Ismene is willing to share the blame, telling Creon “I did it, yes- if only she consents- I share the guilt, the consequences too” (Pg. 86, Line 603). Ismene also is willing to face death, rather than allow the injustice to continue. The people are on Antigone’s side, and the wise seer Tiresias knows this. He tells Creon “Great hatred rises against you- cities in tumult, all whose mutilated sons the dogs have graced with burial, or the wild beasts or a wheeling crow that wings the ungodly stench of carrion back to the city, each warrior’s hearth and home” (Pg. 115, Lines 1201-1205). The people are now gaining hope, as they recognize that they too should stand up against

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