How does Ragged Dick represent the "Rags to Riches" story?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Ragged Dick represents the "rags to riches" story in a couple of ways.  Dick starts off poor.  Working as a shoeshiner, he is the embodiment of the "rags" component of the "rags to riches" story.  Part of the reason why his narrative is so much a part of the Alger construction is that he works hard at his job, is economically wise, follows the rules, and demonstrates an embrace of the opportunity ideology in making himself a success.  Essentially, Dick plays by the rules, does what he is told, and through this, he becomes a success.  Dick is not someone who questions why the capitalist configuration is the way it is.  Rather, he adheres to it.  Alger makes this a part of the narrative.  In accepting what is and learning to succeed in it, Ragged Dick becomes the "rags to riches" embodiment because individuals are shown to be successful when the follow the rules and conform to the economic system in which they are immersed.  It is for this reason that Dick becomes Richard as he makes himself a success. In working hard, adhering to the rules, and not disrupting the flow of the social order, Ragged Dick embodies the "rags to riches" idea that is such a part of Alger's body of work.

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