Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Horatio Alger Myth

The ‘Horatio Alger myth’ is a criticism of the ‘rags to riches’ message throughout Alger’s books, which is the idea that someone from a poor background can achieve success through hard work and determination.

I looked at the website which was a short news article written by Adam Price, looking at the ‘Horatio Alger Myth’ and used it in relation to the story of ‘Ragged Dick’, which portrays Dick, a young bootblack, and his story to success.

The article supported the idea of ‘rags to riches’ which can be shown through the quote ‘Many poor and working class Americans did achieve a better way of life, buying a house and sending their children to college’. However it seems Price does not agree with the concept behind this of ‘luck and pluck’ which drives the characters in stories such as ‘Ragged Dick’ to succeed stating that the American Public’s success ‘had less to do with luck and a wealthy patron’. This can be seen in ‘Ragged Dick’ which contains many scenarios which appear to be due to ‘luck’, in particular where the character of Dick stumbles upon Mr Whitney in the first chapter by chance who gives him new clothes and money. Mr Whitby stirred a change in Dick as he took his advice, which led him to stop spending his money and to open a savings account, without this event perhaps Dick would have continued spending his money and stayed in the same position for most of his life, supporting the idea of luck having a positive effect on the ‘rags to riches’ idea. Price believes the success of the public had more to do with the strength of unions who forced businesses to pay a living way and the expansion of public colleges and universities rather than this idea.

I think it is hard to relate to the stories of Horatio Alger today due to the high standards of the public. Gaining a job as a clerk for $10 an hour as Dick does in ‘Ragged Dick’ would not be considered as a success in the modern world today, as the character has not become ‘rich’ as the phrase ‘rags to riches’ suggests, he has merely secured a low-level job in a company. With evidence shown in the article such as ‘Only 10% of less educated poor fathers have very successful sons’ it supports the idea of ‘Rags to riches’ idea no longer existing.

1 comment:

  1. The myth is that you can go from rags to riches, not the criticism that you can't