"Ragtime" by E.L. Doctorow.

Essay by busta3375 May 2003

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In the early 1900's, America was the great "melting pot" of the world. Immigrants from all over the world came to the United States in search of the American dream, but many never found it. Immigrants were greeted with a harsh welcome, being hated for the simple fact that they were not "true-blooded" citizens. In Ragtime, the family of Tateh embodies these citizens. Doctorow also follows Father, a character of middle class America with a family and passion for exploration. Both of these paternal figures and their families have their share of problems to deal with, whether they have an advantage of social and ethnic background or not. The differences between these Father and Tateh, whether ethnic, social, financial, and even talent-based, affect their lives greatly, but does not stop them from reaching their full potential, if they so choose.

A person's ethnic background, or heritage, defines who they are and how they are treated by their society.

In Ragtime, heritage works in Father's favor but causes much unhappiness for Tateh. Heritage also ties in with the subject of race, which can lead to prejudice of someone without knowing whom he or she really is, and general disgust toward him or her. Tateh faced all of these difficulties. Doctorow writes, "They were despised by New Yorkers. They were filthy and illiterate. They stank of fish and garlic. They had running sores. They had no honor and worked for next to nothing. They stole. They drank."(Doctorow 13). Along with prejudice, most immigrants like Tateh had a very hard time finding work that could sustain a family. Doctorow affirms, "Tateh stood in front of a loom for fifty-six hours a week. His pay was just under six dollars. The family lived in a wooden tenement on a hill. They...