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


Horatio Alger

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Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Frank and Dick hop on a horse-drawn public transport to go to Central Park. The transport is remarkably crowded, and they’re forced to sit next to a sour-faced woman with a clear dislike for them.
Even in their nice suits, the boys are still boys, and some people will always have a natural distaste for children. This moment also underscores a certain similarity between Frank and Dick despite the vast difference in their socio-economic circumstances.
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Soon after sitting, the woman screams to the conductor for the transport to stop. She declares that her wallet has been stolen and accuses the two boys of stealing it. This accusation greatly amuses Dick, who gently mocks the woman, much to the delight of the car’s passengers. His irreverence only angers her more, however. Both Frank and Dick declare their innocence and agree to be searched by the conductor. Another passenger remarks that the boys “don’t look” like thieves.
Dick’s suit does a lot of work in this scene. It protects him from suspicion he would have surely endured in his bootblacking uniform, and it allows him to speak with some impudence to the woman without facing disapproval from other riders.
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When neither Frank nor Dick is found in possession of the woman’s purse, and, when the conductor asks the woman to check her pockets again, she finds it. The conductor demands that she apologize to the boys, but she refuses, and eventually departs. When Frank and Dick leave the car, the conductor laughingly tells them to beware of pickpockets.
By now the formula that Alger used for his chapters is fairly clear. First, decide on a place for the boys to go. Second, decide on some mishap that will happen to them along the way. Third, find a way for Dick’s charming personality, moral uprightness, and work ethic to resolve that tension.
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