E. L. Doctorow’s novel “Ragtime” is a discussion on turn of the century American society, government, and ideals. Throughout the novel, Doctorow discusses the intertwining relationships between a number of characters, each coming from various places within society. The Jewish, immigrant, socialist Tateh and his young daughter, the middle-class family of mother, father, mother’s younger brother, and the little boy, Coalhouse Porter the social misfit who is a economically rising black man, each of these characters represent a portion of society and the problems both externally and internally afflicting American social consciousness at the time. Inter dispersed between these main character stories is the placement of actual historical events and people.
Doctorow places well-known events and people to give credence to his discussion of democratic values and liberalist deficiencies in American society. Throughout the novel Dokorow examines the intertwining relationships between members of varying echelons of American society. Roger Smith’s article Multiple Traditions in America concerns the liberal democratic ideals of American life, accompanied with a capitalistic economy foster in theory the possibility for a man below his means to aspire and reach a social standing above his usual place in society. Combining Smith’s discussions and Doctorow’s stories creates a stunning portrait of the pitfalls of American. Smith points to Toqueville’s Democracy in America, which displays the egalitarian and opportunistic tone to settling America.
... in America pursues or at least wishes to achieve the American Dream. In the book House on Mango Street, the main character, Esperanza ... can it be obtained. Some say we are slaves to society; forced to spend our worthless lives working nonstop. Perhaps one ... I ever trade places to live in any other part of the world besides America. That is what America and the American experience means ...
“The vast stretches of land inhabited by wandering tribes who had not thought of exploiting the soil enabled European immigrants to spread out and make their fortune-as opposed to nations where most lands formed parts of large hereditary estates.” Though he points to the Europeans solely in his analysis, this was mainly due to the fact that immigrants at the time were predominantly, if not completely, European in origin. Toqueville goes on to argue that thought the majority of immigrants were European, they came without “any idea of superiority of some over others.” This can be traced to their overwhelming protestant beliefs, and their disdain for the monarchistic, and aristocratic nature of European society. Instead, America was built on a “middle-class, democratic freedom.” This ideal is conducive to republican idealism, and liberal ideals. Equality and opportunity abound for those who are searching for freedom in American society. The so-called egalitarian rights and opportunities, however, were not extended to those of “new” immigrants, nor to blacks.
It can be argued that at the time the thought was prevalent that white and blacks could never be held on equal footings due to the overwhelming physical and intellectual differences. Yet, Coalhouse Porter, a high aspiring and successful black musician (could afford to buy a car) cannot reach the equality he knows and desires, and in the end he is doomed to tragedy. The American ideal is just a dream that not a true constant to American society. Between racial, gender and social inequalities, the American ideal is only attainable to a chosen few. Coalhouse attempted to reach a higher plain in American life.
He could afford to buy a car, he dressed as a man accustomed to success, and he tried to be an upright figure in his doomed fianc ” ee’s life. If the color of his skin would have been white, Coalhouse’s life most likely not have taken the violent and revolutionary turn that it did. The Irish firemen singled him out based on the color of his skin, and the success he had achieved relative to the white Anglo-Saxon immigrants surrounding him. At same time there is the character of Tateh and the little girl who not only went through the ultimate pain of the infidelity of the mother, but also with the desperation of poverty being immigrants with nothing to claim for their own-they lived in filthy tenements, worked in dangerous factories, and tried to survive of meager pay checks. The immigrants of the day were forced to deal with a capitalistic world, ripe with labor problems, and social inequalities that had plagued the United States throughout the industrial revolution. Immigrants who entered the United States came with great dreams of the possibilities that existed for them.
... beyond.Before examining the effects of American Indians on European settlement, its important to acknowledge ... our rivers, lakes, counties, cities, and states were derived directly from Indian names. Sitting Bull ... was quickly assimilated into the Anglo-American way of life. As such, the importance of ... components of the native Americans were well-established. The influences of this society on the “New ...
Yet, the reality of the situation was that the life that was available to the immigrants was often far from their dreams. They entered a society bent on exploiting the immigrants’s hort comings, a society that refused to accept them as equals, and barely saw them as human beings. “Many people believed that fifth and starvation and disease was what the immigrant got for his moral degeneracy.” Immigrants were a lower form of life, with no morality, and were comparable to animals. The fact that Tateh was a Jewish immigrant placed him at the back of the social pecking order amongst his fellow Americans. “They [immigrants] were despised by New Yorkers. They were filthy and illiterate…
they had no honor and worked for nest to nothing. They stole. They drank. They raped their own daughters… among those who despised them the most were the second-generation Irish, whose fathers had seem guilty of the same crimes.” American society saw immigrants as a sub-level of humanity. They ascribed to them characteristics and qualities one would expect from animals, and thought of their entrance into the United States as unacceptable.
They were amoral and naturally prone to crime and violence. In his article “Multiple Traditions in America”, Roger Smith quickly outlined the plight of the Chinese immigrant during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He stated that according to California senator John Miller the Chinese were “automatic engines of flesh and blood, of obtuse nerve, marked by degradation and demoralization, and thus far below the Anglo-Saxon… .” This view of non-northern European immigrants was common not only throughout American society, but also throughout the American government. Though the prejudices against the Chinese were taken to a new level, when the state of California, and later the entire United States, restricted the immigration of Chinese into America. The government turned to laws in order to “maintain an inclusive feature of American law while sharply reducing the resident Chinese population.” .”..
... lives that most of us lead.Therefore, the answer to the question Is the Mafia Still a Major Part of American Society ... were roughly twenty-six American Mafia "families" going strong across the United States and in Canada. ... have been made. In addition, the NYPD states that the Mafia is languidly dwindling away. In ... time there were 26 families in the United States - roughly one for each major city. The ...
Women may not vote, they may not love whom they want, they may not develop their minds and their spirits… .” .”.. like all whores you value propriety. You are a creature of capitalism, the ethics of which are so totally corrupt and hypocritical that your beauty is no more than the beauty of gold, which is to say false and cold and useless.” The Eskimos that father comes upon during his voyage to the North Pole, again are seen as animals. They are primitive in comparison to their white leaders.
The Eskimos, according to father, are barely human, the men are constantly trying to restrain from killing themselves, while the women have no restraint nor decency, exhibited by their blatant disregard for propriety during sexual intercourse. Peary, the leader of the expedition to the North Pole, refereed to the Eskimos in paternalistic phrases: “Our little brown brothers have to be taught a lesson… .” Father refers to them as “primitive”animal”; these are monikers that American society has placed upon “lesser” races. Yet, the liberal and republican traditions of America itself stress that .”.. ordinary men and women are entitled to representative self-governance, that all who live in the political community should be able to participate in public life as equals, and that citizens should have freedom for different religious outlooks and other sorts of pursuits in their private lives.” This view of American civic life may connect more with a modern day view of society, but at the turn-of-the-century these beliefs’ were held few and far between. To the Anglo-Saxon elites, the African-Americans, the Native Americans, and the lesser immigrants were not seen as equals.
... meaningfully in the affairs of the society. For first generation immigrants to the United States, however, ... be a functional literacy program. These adult immigrants would be taught specific matters and subjects that ... knowledge of the society they are in and how they can make their lives more meaningful in ... they need for their daily lives. They might not need to study calculus ...
They were outsiders to society and government, and the thought existed that they should remain so. The scope of equality, whether it is racial, religious, or social, did not stretch to the minorities. As cited in Smith’s article, Lawrence Fuchs states “the Euro-American determinations to maintain a racially exclusive civic culture was not abandoned until the 1960’s to 1980’s.” Yet the decree for liberty, and equality had taken place centuries before. A nation built on liberalism, and republican ideals by definition is understood to be in opposition to “racism, nativism, and patriarchy”; it pushes forth the moral worth of human equality and gives them “inalienable rights to freedom, justice, and a fair opportunity.” While at the same time denounces, “differences made on account of race, creed, and color.” This is evident throughout Ragtime, from the treatment of Coalhouse by the firemen, the police department, and by the public in general, as well the violent suppression of the immigrant factory workers during the labor strike. This suppression is doubly condemning; because the workers were demanding fair treatment, fair pay, and safer working conditions. Basically demands that would seem reasonable from Anglo-Saxon natives.
Tateh is able to fulfill the American dream, though it almost kills him in the process. Though the labor strikes in Lawrence, to the dingy tenements they are forced to live in, Tateh lives his days in despair and filth. Yet somehow he is able to profit from the consumerism that consumed the society of his day, and stumbles upon a primitive form of motion pictures. One of the few bright spots painted by Doctorow, Tateh is able to rise above the impoverished life of the tenements, and create an entirely new identity as a “nouveaux riche” titled immigrant. He “invented a barony for himself. It got him around a Christian world.
Instead of having to erase his thick Yiddish accent he need only roll it off him tongue with flourish… He was a new man.” Tateh was able to raise himself above the immigrant prejudices though lies and pure luck. Eventually he even marries the middle-class mother, who accepts him for his true identity, (though he disdains his former identity himself) but only after he has risen above his for impoverished state to success. Throughout American history, the white dominator’s had placed an emphasis on the “racial inferiority of the lower classes of whites and non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants, as well as the blacks.” Immigrants were not given the same rights and privileges as the Anglo-Saxon members of society. The American government had been established in a liberal and republican light, yet those ideals were not passed on to every citizen.
... received they enabled workers to participating with the Americans. Immigrants Section IV- The Huddled Masses A. ) ... before entering and becoming part of this society some of their names were also changed ... public area there was signs separating blacks and white Americans. Blacks were known to be dirty and ... equality would be presented and that the segregation would stop. 1) One of the African American ...
Immigrants, blacks, and Native Americans were held down by these ideals, and in the pursuit of white individual freedoms and opportunities, the basic creed of “life, liberty, and happiness” was crushed. In the post Civil War stage freed slaves were further excluded though governmental legislation aimed at separating African Americans from their white neighbors, and poll taxes that kept them out of the ballot box. Doctorow gave Coalhouse the bottom end of the stick, the fighting and struggle to equality he achieved was broken down and turned into tragedy, painting the plight of the African American as hopeless. The plight of the immigrant, however, had a light at the end of the tunnel though Tateh’s emersion into middle-class society. Smith, Roger, Multiple Traditions in America, American Political Science Review, Vol. 87, No.
3, Yale University Doctorow, E. L. , Ragtime, Penguin Books, 1974.