Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks

by

Horatio Alger

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Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Maguire runs away from Dick and Fosdick as soon as he’s spotted, but Dick gives chase. When Maguire trips and tumbles badly, Dick is on him in an instant. The boy is seriously injured by the fall, however, so Dick does not engage with him. He only warns Maguire to leave him alone and advises Fosdick to let him know if Maguire ever gives him any trouble.
Alger neatly sidesteps the need to have his hero commit violence towards another person by having that person injure himself through his recklessness. Later in his career, Alger would embrace violence—a step that wasn’t well-received by his audience.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Clothes Make the Man Theme Icon
Some time passes, which, the narrator suggests, was fairly uneventful except that Dick continued to live his life in the responsible way he had promised Frank he would.
This is one of many unusual moments where the narrator intervenes to say that nothing of consequence has happened, perhaps underscoring the monotonous nature and dedication required of hard work.
Themes
Fortune Favors the Industrious Theme Icon
The Value of Education Theme Icon
Dick has also made great progress with his studies, and Fosdick informs him that he’s ready to learn how to write. Dick says he feels that he’ll never learn as much as Fosdick knows. Fosdick disagrees and adds that though he may know more than Dick, Dick has certainly been more successful as a businessman. Dick admits this last part. He feels that Fosdick is simply too shy for the business, and he hopes that the boy will give it up in exchange for a different type of job.
Here is further proof that, though Alger sees education as a necessary condition of rising from poverty, it is not in itself a sufficient condition. Dick’s drive continues to be the thing propelling his success, with education simply enabling him to achieve greater heights. In this, Fosdick serves as a foil: proof that lack of drive negates education.
Themes
Fortune Favors the Industrious Theme Icon
The Value of Education Theme Icon
Fosdick replies that he would love to give up shoe-shining, but no one would hire him given his current state of dress. Dick acknowledges this, offering to buy Fosdick a new set of clothes with the money from his savings account, in which Dick has exactly eighteen dollars and ninety cents. Fosdick has six dollars and forty-five cents. After some reluctance, Fosdick finally agrees to this, and Dick buys him a new suit for twenty-three dollars.
Alger’s decision to include exact amounts spent and saved by Dick pays dividends here. The amount of money that Dick offers his friend is almost frightening, because we know how very long it took Dick to save.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Clothes Make the Man Theme Icon
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