Today, we discussed Horatio Alger’s 1868 novel Ragged Dick. We also had a guest in class: a university research librarian, who is considered an expert on Horatio Alger. He has been studying Alger’s works for years, so he led our discussion this morning.
We touched on many topics, including the themes of the novel, the idea of “rags to riches,” New York life in the 1800s, moral idealism, and the role of luck versus the role of motivation.
We spent the most time discussing whether it was Dick’s hard work or pure luck that contributed to his relative success. After hearing several opinions, I decided that it was probably a combination of both. Dick was honest and worked hard, but was also presented with several rare opportunities (such as the high-paying job offer at the end of the novel).
Overall, Ragged Dick was a simple and entertaining read – although not entirely realistic or applicable to modern society – and I enjoyed the class discussion.