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 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On returning home, however, Dick is surprised to find his bankbook missing from the locked drawer where he kept it. Discussing the matter with Fosdick, the two decide that the book was stolen. The thief, they deduce, must have been one of the other tenants in the house—though not the housekeeper, as she is too simple minded.
Dick has proven himself immune to all manner of conmen, but the city seems intent on taking his money in any way possible. It should be obvious by now, however, that this crime will not pay for the one who committed it.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
The pair approach Mrs. Mooney about the problem. Upon learning how much money Dick had saved, the landlady views him with newfound respect. She then  suggests that it may have been Jim Travis, a new renter who worked as a bartender. Travis, she said, had been home sick that day, and his chest of drawers used the same key as Dick’s. The two agree it must have been him, only hoping that Travis hadn’t made it to the bank before it closed that day.
Financial success, as a marker of morality and diligence in Alger’s world, again proves to be the primary means of bettering oneself and gaining respect. Jim’s work as a bartender, meanwhile, marks him as a less-than-desirable character in a story where such crutches as smoking and gambling are so heavily denigrated. It seems very likely that Dick and Fosdick are right in their suspicions.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
The narrator notes that, though Dick has grown fond of having wealth and to derive pleasure from the act of responsibility saving, the greatest satisfaction for Dick would still be to help Tom Wilkins.  Fosdick lends Dick the remaining money he needs to help Tom, and the two decide on a plan. They agree not to broach the subject with Travis, should they see him, and instead go to the bank first thing in the morning to report the lost passbook.
Dick’s strength of character is again evidenced by his desire to spread his wealth and his immense generosity. His maturity is also clear in the fact that he now actually enjoys denying himself frivolous pleasures and instead saving money.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Nevertheless, Travis visits the boys himself in what they recognize as a thinly veiled attempt to see if they’ve noticed the missing passbook. Dick and Fosdick act as though nothing is amiss, and Travis quickly departs.
This scene suggests to the reader that Travis is, in fact, guilty, and ends the chapter on a note of tense suspicion.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
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