Ragged Dick
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Ragged Dick (Ragged Dick series #1)

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3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  1,048 ratings  ·  124 reviews
“[Alger] was an utterly American artist . . . and the truth of his books is the truth of the power of the wish. . . . Alger was perhaps American capitalism’s greatest and most effective propagandist.”
–Richard Wright

Introduction by David K. Shipler

Written to inspire schoolboys to strive for “honesty, industry, frugality, and a worthy ambition,” the novels of Horatio Alger (...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Modern Library (first published 1868)
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Steven Salaita
Ragged Dick is useful if only because of its historical importance and the centrality of its boot-strap narrative in American mythology. As a novel, it's didactic, heavy-handed, and oblivious to everything but its own propagandist missive.

If the readers want to fill the many gaps in Alger's panegyric to free-market capitalism, they can start here:

Alger is correct that anybody can make it to the top of the economic ladder in the US if...

...we take race out of the equation.

...we take gender out...more
catechism
Sort of hilariously preachy! Listen, kids, if you just work hard and work hard some more, your life will be totally wonderful! Presumably this book is famous more for its rags-to-riches propagandist importance to Being A Good American rather than for its awesome writing. But I still thought it was a pretty fast and not-annoying read, as long as I was willing to roll my eyes at the more didactic passages. Also, I apparently forgot to take off my slash goggles while reading, because the Force was...more
Alex
Horatio Alger was the inventor, or at least the popularizer, of the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ethos in America. I heard his name many times growing up, but no one reads his books anymore. This is partly because they're not very good: "There is no doubt that what he wrote was bilge, but it was inspired", says one critic* who's being as nice as he can.

Another reason is that his books are pretty overtly ephebophilic: they all feature a teenage boy who's taken under the wing of an older...more
David
This was not nearly as satisfying a read as four stars suggests. We have our protagonist, Dick Hunter who behaves well and fortune smiles upon him. He doesn't become a savvy businessman, instead people give him opportunities and he betters himself.

I wish it was longer but I understand there is a second novel to follow up on his adventures.

I'm too tired to suggest any homoerotic undertones. Perhaps the general lack of women is due to the perspective of masculine society at the time?

Be nice to o...more
7jane
This is a story of a 14-year-old boot-black finding a way to rise to a better life (though still way below what his end goal must be, but it's not part of this book - the next book "Fame And Fortune" has that, though reading it at Project Gutenberg is to me preferable to owning it). It's set around the time when Central Park is still not quite finished, which points us to the time point of circa 1873ish. The book's covers the time of about a year.

Ragged Dick manages to progress partly because of...more
Jeff Thomas
I read (actually listened to) this book as an example of prose by an all-time top-selling author (according to Amazon).
Although the social conventions, and to a degree, the writing style are outmoded, the simplicity of the style still makes it very readable.
There was little in the way of dramatic tension, other than two anecdotes which involved a theft and a rescue. It was mostly about how a very laudable little boy raises himself up by his bootstraps by being an ideal person.

What was interest...more
Alethea A
Proto-YA, orphan story, rags to riches, and quite a hoot. I also now really really want some beefsteak and coffee.

Read for YABC May 2013
Nancy
What I really liked about this book was the description of life in NY city in the late 1800s. The actual story is a bit different from the Horatio Alger mythology of going from rags to riches, it's more like going from crushing poverty to middle class. While our plucky little protagonist Ragged Dick does have a sense of integrity, is personable, and is quite the hard-worker, but he also relies on good fortune for opportunities that he wouldn't otherwise be offered. It is quite cliched, but it is...more
Nhi Nguyen
Question 15: (the whole book)
Ragged Dick is the name of a poor boy that his parents are dead when he was seven years old. He shines shoes to earn money for his living. He sleeps in boxes every night. He had a frank, straightforward manner that made him appealing. He always read to joke with customers. One day, he was fortunate enough to get four customers in the morning. Now, he began to think about breakfast with Johnny Nolan who is a boy of fourteen years old like Ragged Dick, a bootblack. I...more
Laura
Horatio Alger, Jr.'s style is rather like G. A. Henty's in that, once you’ve read three or four of his novels, you’ve practically read all of them because he repeats the same plots over and over. But those first four stories are quite enjoyable. =)

The Story.

Ragged Dick’s life as a bootblack is straightforward. He scrambles himself up real early each mornin’ – ‘cause that’s when the best customers is up and movin’ – and racks up some business. Then, for the rest of the day, he spends his money bu...more
Tony
RAGGED DICK. (1867). Horatio Alger. ***.
Most of us know about or have heard of Alger. It’s a common expression: “Like a Horatio Alger story.” It typically refers to a phenomenal success story, or one that involves a “rags-to-riches” occasion. I’ve never read any of Alger’s books, because I’ve always heard that they were so bad, but coming across one at a library sale I managed to part with $1 for the experience. The book actually contained two of Alger’s novels, both this one and the succeeding...more
Mary-Celeste
PRE-1920s YA NOVEL REQUIREMENT
This was such a fun read! I was surprised at how smoothly it flowed, since a lot of older fiction I find harder to read since it is generally much slower-paced than modern fiction. It is undoubtedly written with teenage boys in mind. It was filled with the slang of the day and a spunky hero that was equal parts punk and saint--what I feel most people sort of wish they were. It tells the story of how Ragged Dick, the hand-to-mouth boot-black on the streets, turns int...more
Gwonam
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy
Jul 04, 2009 Jeremy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of american culture
As the introduction to the book says this is mostly "bilge" as far as literary quality goes. But the ideals espoused by Algiers are woven into the fabric of our country so deeply that his works cannot be dismissed out of hand. What I wonder when reading it, though, is why the aspect of luck and help from more fortunate strangers is so often left out of the idea of the "Horatio Algiers Success Story" as we know it today? Dick was helped all along the way, and yes, he is hard working, and yes, he...more
Amanda Childs
OLD TIME ADOLESCENT LIT CATEGORY

Ragged Dick tells the story of a young street wise shoeshine in new york city who works his way to success and stability through his honest nature and fortunate chance encounters with people who are willing to help him on his way. Throughout the story, he and his companions have many adventures, nearly all of which serve to emphasize some social point or build up the boy's character. By the end, Dick has become a new creature, but chooses to hold onto his shoeshin...more
D.M. Dutcher (Sword Cross Rocket)
This book is the myth of America in its purest form, and even granting modern cynicism makes for something you can't help but wish is true.

Dick Hunter is a boot-black in 19th century New York City. He lives day-to-day shining shoes and sleeping in whatever box he can find, squandering his earnings on entertainment and cheap comforts. One day a series of fortunate events enables him to hope for a better life. Can he better himself?

It's surprisingly readable even today. It's not a masterpiece of p...more
Marla
Okay, to be truthful, I'm not sure I can remember enough to distinguish between Ragged Dick and every other Alger hero, but suffice it to say that Dick is a bold, strong boy with excellent moral character, a clear voice and good handwriting.

(spoilers ahead)

Nearly every Horatio Alger story has the same characters and plot elements with slight rearrangements, which is not to say that I don't love them! There's something about the obvious moralizing and unmistakeable good vs bad theme that is very...more
Gale
“Gamin Overcoming Adversity in the City”

Set on the callous streets of post Civil War New York this 130-page novelette introduces readers to a new genre by presenting a cocky street lad dubbed Ragged Dick. This new type protagonist, commonly referred to as “Our Hero,” is one of a lose army of boot blacks, fending for themselves virtually friendless in a hostile city. Possessing street smarts beyond his years, as well as a generous nature, Dick proves instantly likeable--for his good looks (when...more
Gale
RAGGED DICK
“Urchin Overcoming Adversity in the City”

Set on the callous streets of post Civil War New York this 130-page novelette introduces readers to a new genre by presenting a cocky street lad dubbed Ragged Dick. This new type protagonist, commonly referred to as “Our Hero,” is one of a lose army of boot blacks, fending for themselves virtually friendless in a hostile city. Possessing street smarts beyond his years, as well as a generous nature, Dick proves instantly likeable--for his good...more
Jayne
PRE 1920'S CATEGORY

Alright, so I've been hearing about Horatio Alger and his hand in creating a youth culture through his books, and I must say my first interaction with his books has been pleasurable and predictable. Stemming from the time in history when melodrama's were popular, not to mention the rags to riches American dream aspect, this book delivers some nineteenth century cheese in high form. It follows 14 year old Dick, a boot black, who for some reason is good at everything, has unreas...more
Marcus
I read this book because I kept hearing liberals criticize the "Horatio Alger stories" that conservatives like to tell about America. According to these reputable sources, such rags to riches tales are no longer realistic for most of the nation's poor.

Ragged Dick is a charismatic bootblack who, through hard work and frequent displays of moral fiber, manages to pull himself up in the world. The story isn't particularly compelling, but it's far from being Pollyanna or outlandish. It doesn't imply...more
Thom Swennes
Ragged Dick (published in 1868) is the first of a series of six books written for adolescent readers. The message of honesty and virtue gush from every page but despite this the story catches the reader and puts them squarely on the rough streets of New York. Ragged Dick (Richard Hunter) is an orphaned boy that is making a hand-to-mouth living as a shoeshine boy on the streets of New York. His positive attitude and quick wit soon endears him to the reader. His basic honesty and sweetness raise q...more
Ann
Maybe two stars is a little harsh, and this should be a 2.5 star book, but the writing is pretty abysmal, and there is definitely a reason this hasn't survived as a true classic. Still, it's significant in its historical context, and you have to give credit to Horatio Alger for shedding light on the plight of homeless children of New York, as sugar coated as that light may be. I found the book really fascinating to read in the context of how Alger's books are still used as part of the American c...more
Jim
Alger's most famous 'rags-to-riches' story isn't quite as dramatic of an ascent as I expected. Still, it's interesting reading, as it certainly helped to construct the rigid and contradictory set of moral values still (ostensibly) dominant in the US today. The protagonist possesses self-reliance, self-sacrifice, industriousness, scrupulous honesty, charity, fiscal responsibility--and as a relief to the reader, street smarts and incisive wit. Parts of the book also serve as a detailed travelogue...more
T.V and Book Addict
So glad this book was assigned in History. It was really great even thought it was aimed at boys in the 1860's. It reminded me a lot of my dad who was just like Ragged Dick (it's gonna be his birthday present, he'll love it!). :)
The book is about a 14 year old shoe shining New York boy who is poor and after meeting another boy around his age he ends up trying to be more "respectable." He soon ends up being extremely ambitious, learns to read, and is a hard worker. The book shows that through amb...more
Ellen B
This was a reread for me. The first time I read it was a few years ago and at somewhat of a slower pace.
Reading it again, there were times I had to suspend disbelief regarding some elements of the plot. All in all though, it's a nice, heart-warming tale of a boy who realizes his potential.
George
I look looking at my Ragged Dick. Rubbing my Ragged Dick, feeling my Ragged Dick, you might even say caressing my Ragged Dick.

I take my Ragged Dick everywhere with me. After all, where else would it go?

If it wasn't for my grandmother, I would not have a Ragged Dick.
Mary
OLD TIME PRE-1929 'JUVENILE' FICTION

This is the archetypal rags to riches story of the late seventeenth century. Through his hard work and determination Ragged Dick progresses from the impoverished, orphaned bootblack who enjoys gambling and sleeps in the streets to the distinguished Richard Hunter who is on his way to become a wealthy gentleman. I had low expectations going into this book in fears that it would be overtly didactic like some of its contemporary works. However, I was delightfully...more
Rick
I was always getting my Horatio Alger and Horatio Hornblowers mixed up when people would reference them, so I decided screw it, I'm 40. It's time to get this straight. Horatio Alger writes funny little novels meant to teach white, straight teenage boys that they can have anything if they educate themselves and work hard. I suppose it's good to teach white, straight teenage boys to educate themselves and work hard, because lord knows most of them are lazy idiots. But Ragged Dick isn't. He's a goo...more
Carol
This was a quick read and I really enjoyed it. Horatio Alger has a very readable writing style. The hero, Ragged Dick, makes lots of quick-witted humorous comments that enliven the story. This book was published in 1868 and was especially interesting to me for its description of New York city during that time period.

Hard work pays off -- the philosophy of the book -- is refreshing and for the most part true, I think. Also we meet a nice balance of characters, those that use other people for the...more
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Horatio Alger, Jr. (January 13, 1832 – July 18, 1899) was a prolific 19th-century American author, most famous for his novels following the adventures of bootblacks, newsboys, peddlers, buskers, and other impoverished children in their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of respectable middle-class security and comfort. His novels about boys who succeed under the tutelage of older mentors were h...more
More about Horatio Alger Jr....
Ragged Dick and Struggling Upward (Works of Horatio Alger Jr.) Ragged Dick & Mark, the Match Boy Fame and Fortune Struggling Upward, Or, Luke Larkin's Luck Adrift in New York

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