Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow Essays

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow Essays

Length: 827 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

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. Tateh and Coalhouse are crucial examples of how the demands, prejudices, and opportunities of the American society can change a man’s mentality.
During his escalation from poverty to high-class, Tateh is forced to give up his social beliefs and identity, believing it necessary in order to attain a better life for himself and his daughter. Their life began as many European immigrants did, living in public dwellings. Similar to many living in poverty and being a socialist, Tateh criticizes the upper and Bourgeois class in a negative spotlight, “his heart...outraged" when he “looked at the palaces” (Ragtime 15). These beliefs lead him to become part of a strike in Massachusetts. It is obvious to the reader that Tateh is thrilled with the idea of being shot to death rather than starving to death. Tateh's life , however, is ironic since he loathes the wealthy yet he yearns to achieve such fortune.
Another point in the novel, he shows aloofness to Americans which is seen with the relationship with Evelyn Nesbitt. One morning, Evelyn shows up at his door, and he hesitantly “welcomes” her in. In fact, "Tateh was scandalized by her visit” that in “great agitation he smoked a cigarette, in th...


... middle of paper ...


...triumph is the focus of all the American dreams as illustrated by Doctorow. Tateh and Coalhouse are key examples of how the American society’s demands, prejudices, and opportunities can transform a man’s mentality. Doctorow highlights his concerns for American capitalism, and his overwhelming disdain for the stress people put on money and power. It is the universal being of capitalism that he is cautious off, not only for the social problems it creates, but also for the lust it thrives on. The financial success of Coalhouse causes him to be unaware of the social issues affecting his race. Thus, it is capitalism that causes Walker to be apathetic to the plight of his people. Doctorow only puts the allure of wealth in a negative light and highlights the carelessness that humans exhibit while attempting to attain the typical American dream of wealth and success



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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better 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]

Better Essays
1298 words (3.7 pages)