Horatio Alger and the Gilded Age Dream

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Horatio Alger was an author in the late nineteenth century; he wrote books to little boys on the American Dream. Alger’s books seemed to hark back to an older time when the American Dream was quite different than it was in his time. He subscribed to thoughts of morality, individualism and the competence; but keeps the contemporary idea of fruitfulness. Alger wrote many books to encourage young boys to be moral and work hard. One of Horatio Alger’s books was called Ragged Dick or Street Life in New York, this book featured a young boot black named Dick Hunter and his friend Henry Fosdick. Dick in the beginning is living on the street and is never sure where he will sleep from one night to the next. He is fairly happy but wishes to be respectable. One day he offers Mr. Whitney, a businessman, to show his nephew, Frank, around New York City because Mr. Whitney is too busy to do it himself. After this day Dick’s life begins to change from a boot black with an uncertain life to a clerk who rents a room and earns ten dollars a week. The ideals that Alger encourages are morality, individualism, and the competence or making enough to be comfortable then giving the rest to help the rest of human kind. The businessmen of the Gilded Age did not really subscribe to these ideal, in fact the only one they did adhere to was individualism. Individualism was the idea that a person was supposed to make their riches on their own with out any real help from others. Accepting charity frowned upon, but acquiring loans and borrowing money or equipment for your business was fine. The idea of individualism in Alger’s book is seen in how Dick pushes himself to learn how to read and write under the tutelage of his friend Fosdick. This learning helps h... ... middle of paper ... ... or in a counting house. Neither of these jobs would be definable as being fruitful. Not really any of Alger’s supporting characters were very fruitful either. Mr. Grayson and Mr. Whitney were both businessmen and Mr. Rockwell, Dick’s future employer, was a merchant. Not even the hero’s closest companion, Fosdick, was fruitful. This was not a priority for the men of this age either. The fact that finding fruitful jobs would be quite difficult could be the reason why Alger did not include this ideal in his books of instruction and encouragement. Horatio Alger wrote several books to help young boys how to be moral and successful in an ever changing world with questionable practices. These books were enormously popular because everyone wanted their sons to be successful and to be respected; even though most of the fortunes of the day were made from dubious practices.

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