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Ragtime E L Doctorow Essay

Ragtime By E.L. Doctorow Essay

Many of the subplots from the steelworkers' strikes through the description of the tenement life in New York tie into Emma Goldman's quote. The entire quote carries the theme of the book so well as to offer an alternative to the existence of humans around the turn of the century. In almost every story and character, we find suffering and inequality among the people. This paper describes a handful of examples relating to Emma Goldman's reference to the human tragedy of the era of industrialization.

E.L. Doctorow's novel is set in the New York area in the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Each of the several story lines involves to some extent a bourgeois family in New Rochelle, a famous suburb on Long Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. The book itself contains some of the most famous personalities of the turn of the century. Such famous people as Harry Houdini, Sigmund Freud, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Mexican revolutionaries Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, Robber Barons Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan, and many others who are given a mention in the book.

The historical choice for the backdrop to the book suits Goldman's phrase well. The turn of the 20th century was a prime example of the have and have-nots. For example, on page 57 Emma Goldman gives Evelyn a speech about the sex trade and its decedent nature. She goes as far as calling Evelyn a prostitute because "like all whores, you value property and money." Goldman accuses Evelyn of marrying for money, thus becoming another product of capitalism and its preoccupation with wealth. Emma Goldman's character, an anarchist, portrays the awakening of Evelyn and the realization that so many suffer to make the United States a superpower. Not by coincidence, fifty percent of the American population, women were subservient to men at the time and for once decided to do something about it. This era is one of the turning points for feminists. The Suffrage movement had begun.

Another example is the description of the Jewish artist and his daughter in chapter seven. The chapter begins with a description of life in the tenements of New York and the horrid condition immigrants had to live in. Evelyn is moved by the plight of the father and his daughter and feels she needs to help them. Evelyn is especially shocked at the remark that young girls are kidnapped on a daily basis and sold into slavery. To me, the epitome of human bondage, especially of children, is the worst example of capitalism gone wrong. This example is a strong argument for Goldman and still holds today. Instead of children from New York, the children sold into slavery today are from India or Colombia. Since capitalism has spread around the world, the era of globalization has allowed people to trade in humans from around the world just like any other...

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

1091 Words5 Pages

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, these same assumptions and prejudices test our…show more content…

There were no immigrants" (Doctorow 4). What follows quickly after is the voice of truth and reason in the text, expressed through the fictional re-representation of the anarchist Emma Goldman, who shows white culture that "Apparently there were Negroes. There were immigrants" (Doctorow 5).

Despite this laudable cultural advancement, the author's meaning of the term "immigrant" takes place within a very limited context. Asians and indigenous peoples are not "invited" in Ragtime; while black America is given a voice through the stubborn and noble Coalhouse and the eloquent Booker T. Washington, and the Eastern European immigrant community is given a rich and touching voice through "Tateh" and his daughter, Doctorow never ventured far enough along to include Asians in his spectrum of ethnic narrative. Just like the "Oriental silk cushions" that made Houdini feel so trapped in Father's home, they are deprived of a true voice.

Great lengths are taken by Doctorow to empathize with the Eastern European immigrant community. With great emotion, he describes Father's impression of an immigrant ship, decidedly of a European identity because of the head shawls that the women wore (Doctorow 14). With an emotion that belies the author's role as "third-person omniscient," he argues eloquently against this ethnic group being wrongly stigmatized as being lost within "moral

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