Essay on Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Essay on Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Length: 1697 words (4.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow


Up until the late 1900?s, the American populace on the whole had assumed a very optimistic view of American history. Glossing over disgraceful events, emphasizing the brighter points in our history, our culture has attempted to ignore the obvious fact that we have had, and still have, our fair share of problems. In Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow unabashedly exposes some of the worst aspects of American life in our more recent history. Doctorow doesn?t hold back anything, providing detailed examples of human cruelty and sacrifice, and the evolution of American society. While critiquing American society was not the sole purpose of his novel, Doctorow does expose and examine many issues that people tended to ignore like the impoverished immigrant working class, racism, and feminism. The emphasis Doctorow places on these issues makes it clear that he thought, ??America is a mistake, a gigantic mistake.'; (33).

     The period in American history at the turn of the 20th century is commonly referred as the Gilded Age. This is in reference to the increased size of the lower classes and the emergence of the elite capitalist as a new hegemonic class that possessed riches and power that were practically undreamt of. This era saw a dramatic increase in the size of the lower classes as immigrants filled the country and jobs became scarce, and a decrease in the size of the middle class. However, despite the less than ideal conditions that existed for many people in the country, middle and upper class citizens had the impression that they were in an era of prosperity. They turned a blind eye towards all the suffering and hardships of the lower class, in their perfect, ignorant world ?There were no Negroes. There were no immigrants'; (3). Doctorow recognized the dominant attitude of the times for what it was, pure ignorance, and set out in Ragtime to educate the middle and upper class about the real world and the hardships that many people have to endure.

     In the beginning of the novel, the nameless family that the story revolves around has an air of purity to it. At this point in time everyone seems to be as it should be, they are well off financially, they have a normal family residing in a normal house in a normal neighborhood. The only member of the family who has any inkling of the darker times ahead is the mother who thinks to hersel...


... middle of paper ...


...cepted him without hesitation.'; (269). Once again, Doctorow shows his distaste for the traditional values of American society by allowing Mother?s strong character to flourish and be happy in a society that was designed for men.

Perhaps Doctorow did not think of America as a gigantic mistake. The fact that the book ended on a hopeful note, with Mother and Tateh being married, gives the impression that Doctorow still has hope for America. But it is only with the help of people like Mother and Tateh, who incidentally are two of the few main characters still alive at the end of the book, that American society can hope to better itself. The ignorance of people to the poverty of the working class, the racism in an ethnically diverse culture, and the conservative stance of men towards women, are all problems that can be corrected with time and effort. It is to be expected that in a unique society like America problems will arise. Doctorow?s novel is more than a simple criticism of the United States, it is a statement of his belief that America can improve itself but there is much that needs to be improved.

Bibliography:

Doctorow, E.L., Ragtime. New York: Bantam Books, 1976.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Emperor Hadrian in Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian and E.L. Doctorow's Everyman figure of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in Ragtime

- Emperor Hadrian in Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian and E.L. Doctorow's Everyman figure of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in Ragtime As Marguerite Yourcenar states in Memoirs of Hadrian, “. . . there is always a day where Atlas ceases to support the weight of the heavens, and his revolt shakes the earth.” (114) When Coalhouse Walker strides knowingly, even willingly, into his death, he is more powerful at that moment than he has been at any other point in his crusade. Because he has no regard for death or for the effect of his decision upon the rest of the world, his chosen fate sends a resounding reaction through all who witness his end....   [tags: Yourcenar memoirs Doctorow Ragtime Essays]

Powerful Essays
1944 words (5.6 pages)

Essay on Identity in E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime

- Identity in E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime      Written almost thirty years ago, describing an age far removed from its own, E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime nevertheless explores issues of identity and ethnicity that still face America in spite of its lofty ideals of individualism and diversity.  It displays for the reader a rich and hypnotic portrayal of the soul of immigrant America, yet still fails to avoid ethnic bias in certain subtle ways.  Whether the lapses into feelings of cultural superiority originate from the purposeful portrayal of the characters Doctorow created or without the author's conscious prior awareness, a careful reading of the text will reveal them.  In this way, th...   [tags: Ragtime]

Powerful Essays
1095 words (3.1 pages)

The Cultural Revolution in E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime Essay

- Response to E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime At the early 20th century before the World War I, American society was undergoing a cultural revolution. People were constantly looking for their identity and the meaning of life in these changes. Mingling the historical reality with fiction, Doctorow’s Ragtime perfectly grasps the struggles of Americans with different social classes. People in the novel either welcome the changes and complete the transformation or hang on to the old social norms and become deserted by society....   [tags: mother, sexuality, Jewish]

Powerful Essays
820 words (2.3 pages)

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow Essays

- Sacrificing an Identity In the novel Ragtime, many aspects of the American society are explored. The reader gets an understanding of the history and hardships of different social classes, races, and cultures during the last century. A persistent theme established is the existence of the American dream. Doctorow expresses his fascination of the social mobility since it includes the impoverished and underprivileged. However, he highlights that when attempting to reach success, one is required to make sacrifices, negotiating his morality and identity....   [tags: american dream, hardships, social classes]

Powerful Essays
827 words (2.4 pages)

The Peary Expedition as Allegory in Ragtime Essay

- The Peary Expedition as Allegory in Ragtime   E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime is primarily concerned with the illustration of broken dreams. Drawing on the tradition of the Muckraker novels of such authors as Upton Sinclair, Doctorow shows the shadow side of the Jazz Age. The beginning of the novel deals with Father’s preparation for and participation in William Peary’s expedition to the North Pole. The theme of disillusionment that runs throughout the novel is foreshadowed and represented by the Peary expedition....   [tags: Ragtime]

Powerful Essays
1244 words (3.6 pages)

The Progressive Era of American History Illustrated in the Novel, Ragtime

- The turn of the century in America introduced new inventions, new lifestyles, and new cultures. This time was called the “progressive era”. The cities were bustling and new amazements came every day. The storyline and the characters in the novel, Ragtime, represent the changes of this time period. From Emma Goldman, to mother, to Evelyn Nesbit, all people and their lives evolved in this period. Emma Goldman, an anarchist, fought for freedom in all aspects of life. Mother became the head of the family and grew into a strong woman who could support herself....   [tags: ragtime]

Powerful Essays
1070 words (3.1 pages)

J.P. Morgan and Ragtime Essay

- John Pierpont Morgan: The turn of the century in American, when E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime is set, was a time marked by rapid technological developments and industrialization. These years also brought a heavy flood of immigrants as well as an increasingly urban American landscape. Technological advancements enabled increased efficiency and mass production. However, Doctorow clearly brings into question the consequences of this new technology for the average American worker. J.P. Morgan's discussion with Henry Ford about the assembly line’s innovations brings this debate to the front....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
1237 words (3.5 pages)

Sacrifice and the American Dream in the Works of E.L Doctorow Essay

- Sacrifice and the American Dream in the Works of E.L Doctorow       Throughout the works of E.L. Doctorow, many facets of American society are explored, ranging from the plight of the homeless to the idiosyncrasies of the rich. A persistent theme prevalent in all of his novels is the existence of the American dream. He seems fascinated by upward social mobility, especially when it involves the impoverished and underprivileged. Yet Doctorow also points out that with the success or attempted success of the American dream, one must make sacrifices, compromising morality, physical well-being, conscience, or identity....   [tags: Biography Biographies Essays]

Powerful Essays
2848 words (8.1 pages)

Billy Bathegate by EL Doctorow Essay

- Billy Bathegate by EL Doctorow Billy Bathgate is an important American novel in it’s portrayal of one young man’s evolution from boyhood to maturity. The novel is about a fifteen year old boy that gets taken under the wing of Dutch Schultz, a 1930’s gangster trying to keep a hold of his diminishing empire. As the novel unfolds, so does the rising maturity of the tough young man introduced to us as Billy Bathgate. Billy finds himself in situations that most of us never see in our whole life. In difference to the reactions that most people would have in these situations, Billy learns from them in order to better his role in the crime family....   [tags: Essays Papers]

Powerful Essays
2021 words (5.8 pages)

The Emergence Of Jazz And Ragtime Essay

- The Emergence of Jazz was the result of varying musical styles that were established due to an especially high intensity of musical activity in New Orleans during the 1800s, originally for the entertainment of social dancers. Two primary genres of music that played an essential role in contributing to what is known as Jazz, include “blues” and “ragtime”, these genres of music both carried imperative value in the creation of Jazz, however, each has its own set of normality’s that distinguish one from the other....   [tags: Jazz, Blues, Music genre, Ragtime]

Powerful Essays
1298 words (3.7 pages)