Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger

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Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger


 Ragged Dick is a novel written in the 1800’s by Horatio Alger.  It is a story about a young boy named Richard Hunter, also known as Ragged Dick, as he progresses though his childhood.  Ragged Dick is a typical Rags to Riches story where Dick struggles through the hardships of city life, trying to achieve the “American Dream”.

            As a child, Dick is nothing more than a poor city boy who is trying to earn money on the streets of New York City.  He spends his time shining shoes for working men, making only about ten cents a pair.  Although he works and struggles to remain an honest, hardworking boy, he also gets caught up with smoking cigarettes and gambling.  Through Dick’s shoe-shining business, he tends to meet lots of people.  Each and every day is another learning experience for Dick.  There are many times when Dick’s integrity and honesty are tested, yet being a boy of good trust, he never cheats anyone.

            As time goes on, Dick eventually meets a young boy named Frank, who is of a wealthy family, but is not at all familiar with New York City.  Dick makes a very intelligent proposal;  he offers to show Frank all around the city, and take him to all the famous places.  Young Frank accepts the proposal, and in exchange, his uncle buys Dick a new suit, and helps him clean himself up.  This was the real turning point in Richard Hunter’s life because Frank’s family was able to help young Dick.  They did this by providing shelter and more importantly, friendship for him.

            From this point forward, Richard Hunter was no longer on the streets, and was determined to never look back.  He was able to get a job, earn more money, and eventually succeed in achieving his dreams.

            While reading this book, I really was able to put myself in the story, and live Dick’s life with him.  This typical story of “Rags to Riches”, is a general theme for many people’ lives.  Today, as well as back in the 1800’s when the story was written, many everybody’s dream is to achieve success.  This formally became known as “The American Dream”.  Although this may seem strange for everyone to have the same idea, it really isn’t when you look at it with an open perspective.  Each and every person’s perception of success is extremely different and individual, which makes everyone’s dreams different.  There may be people who strive for big goals, and there may be others who take it one day at a time, achieving happiness on a less formal level. 

            In comparing the time period of the story to our society today, I seem to find many similarities and differences.  I think that the word “success” alone can be thought to have a completely different meaning today than it did in the 1800’s.  I think that in today’s world, people tend to set much higher goals and expectations for themselves, whereas, in Ragged Dick, it was more of a day-to-day type situation. 

            I think that as far as achieving success and happiness, it should be each to his own.  When people set smaller, more realistic goals, it results in more happiness and comfort in their lifestyle. However, in today’s world, Americans have become so incredibly competitive and successful , that the standards have been significantly raised to the point where personal happiness is no longer good enough.  I guess when you sit back and look at the whole picture, you can end up changing your perspective continuously, but I think that after reading a novel like Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick, you subconsciously make yourself realize the important underlying message that he is trying to portray.  To me, this message is to always be optimistic, and no matter how bad your life is, it can always get better if you are honest, hardworking and determined.

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