The American Dream in Ragged Dick, by Horatio Alger Essay

The American Dream in Ragged Dick, by Horatio Alger Essay

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According to Ty Kiisel, writer for Forbes magazine, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” (Kiisel). In the book Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger, Alger portrays a young New York boot black in the 1860s. Dick rises to become the embodiment of the American Dream through, as Kiisel notes, who he knows. Ragged Dick builds many relationships with upper-class men, fellow boot blacks, and even builds connections within himself, all while keeping his morality in check. The relationships that Ragged Dick forms are what make him achieve the American Dream.
The first relationships with the upper-class that Ragged Dick builds are with Mr. Whitney and his nephew Frank. “I may be rash in trusting a boy of whom I know nothing, but I like your looks…” says Mr. Whitney (Alger 23). Dick’s appearance at the time could not be called proper by any means; he truly lives up to the name Ragged. Whitney talks more about his inner features rather than his physical ones; he could see Dicks accountability and honesty. Before he lets Dick give his nephew a tour he lets him take a bath, gives him a new suit, and even grants him five dollars. Mr. Whitney leaves Dick with some advice, “your future position depends mainly upon yourself” (79). The next person of the upper-class Dick becomes acquainted with is Mr. Grayson. The day before he acquires the suit from Mr. Whitney, Mr. Grayson employs Dick to shine his shoes; he doesn’t have time to wait till Dick gets back with his change. When Dick comes by to drop off Mr. Grayson’s change the next day, dressed in his new suit, he is invited to attend Mr. Grayson’s Sunday school class where Mr. Grayson would “do what he can to help [Dick]” (102). Dick probably would not have gotten the invitation to Su...


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..., fellow boot blacks, and himself. He proved that who you know, and how well they know you, truly makes a drastic impact on how people succeed in America. In this sense, Ty Kiisel is right, but it also took a smidge of prior insight of Dick to acquire the right connections. Ragged Dick always keeps a keen eye on his morality, never letting it pull him into the wrong crowd.



Works Cited

Alger, Horatio. Ragged Dick, Or, Street Life in New York with the Bootblacks. Boston: Loring, 1868. Print.
Kiisel, Ty. "It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know?" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 02 May 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.
Carnegie, Andrew. The Gospel of Wealth. 391st ed. Vol. 148. N.p.: North American Review, 1889. Print.
Overvold, Mark C. "Morality, Self-Interest, and Reasons for Being Moral." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 44.4 (1984): 493-507. JSTOR. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.

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