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 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One day, Fosdick points out a notice in the newspaper to Dick. The notice states that there is a letter for a boy by the name of “Ragged Dick” left unclaimed at the local post office. The two decide that the letter must be from Frank Whitney.
Earlier, Dick mentions having left his job as a newsboy because he couldn’t read the newspaper headlines. Now, he’s able to read them so easily that it’s not even remarkable. This underscores his immense progress, which is, of course, a product of his own hard work and dedication.
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Worried that the post office won’t surrender the letter to a well-dressed boy claiming to be Ragged Dick, Dick adorns his old shoeshine clothes one last time and has little trouble getting the letter, which turns out to indeed be from Frank.
It’s worth considering whether or not it’s surprising that Dick has held on to his old clothes for so long. Is this an insurance policy, in case his lot in life changes again? It may also be a type of nostalgia, a reminder of the life he once led and motivation to continue on the upright path he’s found.
Themes
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Frank’s letter—the first Dick has ever received—details his life at boarding school, including his studies in English literature as well as Latin and Greek. He thinks that Dick will be more interested in hearing about the games the boys play, however, so he describes them in great detail. Mostly, Frank says that he wishes Dick were able to be at school with him, asserting that he is naturally smart and that he wishes he could pay for his education. He asks Dick to write back, and Dick is immensely pleased at having confirmation of their friendship and tangible proof of how much he has changed.
There’s a certain strangeness imagining Dick playing games and sitting in a classroom—a result of his having functioned as an adult throughout the whole of the story. Alger offers no sentimentality here, though. Dick’s lot in life is simply his own. This moment is also an important one in Dick’s development, as it evidences just how far he has come—able now not simply to read, but to write back.
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Related Quotes
On the way back home, Dick encounters Micky Maguire, who is thrilled to see Dick back in his raggedy clothes. Dick simply ignores him.
Maguire is no longer even worthy of a response from Dick: a sure sign that he has moved into a new life.
Themes
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Fortune Favors the Industrious Theme Icon
Clothes Make the Man Theme Icon
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