Ragtime-themes and motifs.

Essay by Malpell5 September 2003

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In the classic E.L. Doctorow novel, Ragtime, we see the combination of many motifs to represent Doctorow's view of the early century. The biggest and perhaps most important theme Doctorow applies in the novel is social tension, or the battle of the rich versus the poor. Other important themes include rebirth, racial tension, and high randomness of events. By uniting history and fiction Doctorow allows himself to write a semi-accurate interpretation of the early 1900's while also being able to strongly express his own biases and opinions of the era

It is apparent that Doctorow clearly favors the poor, lower class, in their struggle for economic and social mobility against the few, rich, and upper class citizens. Doctorow's thoughts are best depicted through the novel's characters. Tateh, Coalhouse Walker and Sarah are all characters who are portrayed as 'good'. These characters, while representing a range of economic success, all symbolize socially challenged individuals.

Throughout the novel, Doctorow always chooses these or similar types of characters to be the protagonists. Doctorow wants the reader to feel for Coalhouse's situation. He wants the reader to hope that Willie Conklin is harmed and the Model T Ford is repaired. On the other hand, Doctorow tells a different tale for the economic elite, upper hand of society, represented by J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford. Morgan is presented as a snobbish old man, who always gets his way, and we are supposed to feel no remorse for him when his museum is broken into! Doctorow could have portrayed Ford and Morgan in a different view, but he describes them as he does for a reason. His goal is to get his readers to dislike these leading men for being wealthy and having better things than Coalhouse or pretty much anyone can obtain. Readers are...