Ragged Dick Short Summary


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Ragged Dick Short Summary

Ragged Dick Summary: Introduction

Ragged Dick tells the story of a poor young bootblack boy Dick’s life of becoming wealthy. Dick is represented as hardworking, economically intelligent, and pursuer of the codes that lead him to success and wealth (Alter 7). In many ways, this novel has several concepts that represent the idea of “rags to riches”.

Body Paragraphs

His progress begins with the scene where he encounters Mr. Whitney and his nephew Frank. They invite Dick to their house so that he can clean himself, rest, and they also give him a new suit. Mr. Whitney wants him to be Frank's guide, and herewith their adventure of day in New York City begins (“Ragged Dick”). Spending time with Whitneys inspires him to make changes in his life. Especially, says Mr. Whitney to Dick, “All labor is respectable, my lad, and you have no cause to be ashamed of any honest business” (Alger 54). He quits games and gambling and stops seeing education as something beyond the bounds of possibility. After this occurrence, Dick starts saving money and begins to focus on his personal development. With ambition and hard work, he starts going up the stairs of success. Frank also commends Dick on his morality, stating that Dick “began in the right way when determined never to steal, or do anything mean or dishonorable” (Alger 39). In this sense, the narrator describes him as an ethical, honorable, and sincere young boy, he would not steal nor cheat, and he has no bad behaviors towards other people.

His character also contributes to his progress. For instance, he helps other homeless guys, such as Johnny Nolan and Henry Fosdick. Even his friendships with these guys are a part of the growth of becoming wealthy (Alter 17). For example, Fosdick gives services to him as a tutor and teaches him how to read and write. Being the guide of Frank is the outcome of his character, too, because Mr. Whitney likes his honest and sincere look. This trust helps him both in shoeshine work and other opportunities. In a scene in which a grateful father offers him a job as a thank-you, we see the outcome of his self-motivation, hard work, and being an honorable, well-behaved young boy. He learns Dick's history of a miserable and strict life and then his ability to write and calculate, which are acquired by himself. He wants to hire him as a clerk, and through this job, he makes a start on financial success.

The idea of "rags to riches," which takes place in the center of the story, refers to people who become wealthy from nothing. It has a high impact on American culture. The idea of "rags to riches" has the same meaning as the idea of the "American dream." People's birthplace or class is not essential to achieve this dream, and the vital things are sacrifices, risk-taking, and hard work. It affects society in both positive and negative ways. Discrimination of class is no longer critical to becoming a wealthy person; being hardworking and ambitious is vital as it should be. It is the positive side of this idea. On the other hand, in American society, there are many examples of corruption of that dream, which are also mentioned in American literature. For instance, in Great Gatsby, the main character becomes wealthy from a miserable life, just like Dick. At the end of the Great Gatsby, we see how the character is destroyed by that dream. Shortly, the idea of "rags to riches" has an impact on American culture both in positive and negative ways.

Ragged Dick Summary: Conclusion

In conclusion, Dick is a character who consistently progresses to become an educated, wealthy person. There are many famous scenes in the novel which show us his improvement step by step. With the character Dick, this novel emphasizes the idea of "rags to riches" by giving a poor boy that becomes rich by his efforts and hard work.


Alger, Horatio. Ragged Dick, or, Street Life in New York. Digireads.com Publishing, 2020.

“Ragged Dick: Plot Summary.” Ragged Dick: Plot Summary | Robbins Library Digital Projects, d.lib.rochester.edu/cinderella/text/alger-ragged-dick-plot-summary.

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Zendaya Kane
Zendaya Kane
Content Lead at Tamara Research. Major in Advertising, loves working.

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