Horatio Jr. Alger Criticism - Essay

Bruce E. Coad (essay date 1972)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Alger Hero," in Heroes of Popular Culture, edited by Ray B. Browne, Marshall Fishwick, and Michael T. Marsden, Bowling Green University Press, 1972, pp. 42–51.

[In the following essay, Coad argues that though Horatio Alger's work has been relatively neglected by scholars, Alger's ideals are still reflected in America's materialistic culture.]

Hidden on one of the inside pages of a recent edition of The New York Times was a small article announcing the recipients of the Annual Horatio Alger Awards, an event that has been going on for some years now.1 Certainly few people would dispute that the day has passed when simple country boys can...

(The entire section is 3725 words.)

Gary F. Scharnhorst (essay date 1976)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Boudoir Tales of Horatio Alger, Jr.," in Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. X, No. 1, 1976, pp. 215–26.

[In the following essay, Scharnhorst looks at the humanitarian moralism of Alger's adult fiction.]

Horatio Alger, Jr., whose fame rests upon his prodigious output of over a hundred juvenile novels written between 1864 and his death in 1899, also had a career as a writer of adult fiction, although it is generally ignored. Alger published a total of eleven adult novelle between 1857 and 1869, by which time the demand for his juvenile work had substantially increased following the publication in 1867 of his first best seller for boys, Ragged Dick, or...

(The entire section is 6304 words.)

W. T. Lhamon, Jr. (essay date 1976)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Horatio Alger and American Modernism: The One-Dimensional Social Formula," in American Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, June 20-July 11, 1976, pp. 11–27.

[In the following essay, Lhamon places Alger as a central influence in defining American mores and developmental ideals, especially in regard to the relationship of the individual to society.]

Imamu Amiri Baraka's story, "The Death of Horatio Alger," is an important overlooked benchmark in the history of American literature because it so consciously marks the end of America's one-dimensional culture.1 Baraka says even "Poets climb, briefly, off their motorcycles, to find out who owns their words. We are...

(The entire section is 8396 words.)

Gary Scharnhorst and Jack Bales (essay date 1985)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Cast Upon the Breakers (1887–1899)," in The Lost Life of Horatio Alger, Jr., Indiana University Press, 1985, pp. 127–48.

[In the following chapter, Scharnhorst and Bales provide biographical and historical information on the last decade of Alger's life, with special attention to his politics and economic ideology.]


Rupert did not envy his father's old partner. "I would rather be poor and honest, " he reflected, "than live in a fine house, surrounded by luxury, gained by grinding the faces of the poor. "

Rupert's Ambition


(The entire section is 9446 words.)

Michael Moon (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "'The Gentle Boy from the Dangerous Classes': Pederasty, Domesticity, and Capitalism in Horatio Alger," in Representations. No. 19, 1987, pp. 87-110.

[In the following essay, Moon discusses Alger's blend of homoeroticism and capitalist nostalgia.]

Throngs of Ragged Children bent on earning or cadging small sums of money filled the streets of mid-nineteenth-century New York, if we are to credit the testimony of a large number of chroniclers of city life of the period. These genteel observers—journalists, novelists, social reformers, early criminologists—professed to be alternately appalled and enchanted by the spectacle of street children noisily and...

(The entire section is 11620 words.)

Carol Nackenoff (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Reading Alger: Searching for Alger's Audience in the Literary Marketplace," in The Fictional Republic: Horatio Alger and American Political Discourse. Oxford University Press, 1994, pp.181-203.

[In the following chapter, Nackenoff identifies Alger's readership within the changing historical context of increased literacy and cheaper availability of books.]

Your kind and flattering letter reached me just as I was starting for the Geysers … It gives me great pleasure to find that I have friends and appreciative readers among the girls, as well as among the boys, and on the shores of the Pacific, as well as the Atlantic. I hope at an early...

(The entire section is 11507 words.)