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

by

Horatio Alger

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Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter Character Analysis

Ragged Dick is the nickname of Richard Hunter, a bootblack who lives on the streets and scrounges a living by shining people’s shoes with the help of his bootblacking box. He’s been living this way since he was seven years old; he’s now fourteen and an absolute authority on how to survive as a homeless boy in New York City, navigating the city with ease and skillfully avoiding the conmen with which it is replete. Dick is outgoing and pleasant, winning over customers both with his good looks and charming humor. This popularity with his patrons allows Dick to live something of a lavish lifestyle for someone with no home. He frequents the theater, smokes expensive cigars, gambles occasionally, and treats his friends to costly meals at restaurants. Despite these shortcomings, however, Dick is, at heart, exceptionally moral and refuses to steal or cheat his way through life. He dreams of a better life, and is sure that he won’t be a bootblack forever. Dick wants to grow up “respectable,” and when he meets Frank Whitney, Dick is provided with a template for how he might do just that. Frank teaches Dick the value of thrift and education, and the importance of tending to one’s appearance. Dick applies these lessons faithfully and, with the help of several philanthropic businessmen (including Mr. Whitney, Mr. Greyson, and Mr. Rockwell), Dick eventually becomes a respectable young man, with an apartment, in a suit, making solidly middle-class income. Ragged Dick no more, he begins to refer to himself as Richard Hunter—a far more respectable moniker. Richard’s success, though, doesn’t curb his generosity. He still treats his friends, including Henry Fosdick, Johnny Nolen, and Tom Wilkins, but now in ways that help them to improve their lives.

Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter Quotes in Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks

The Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks quotes below are all either spoken by Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter or refer to Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks published in 1990.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Oh, I’m a rough customer,” said Dick. “But I wouldn’t steal. It’s mean.”

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Another of Dick's faults was his extravagance. Being always wide-awake and ready for business, he earned enough to have supported him comfortably and respectably. There were not a few young clerks who employed Dick from time to time in his professional capacity, who scarcely earned as much as he, greatly as their style and dress exceeded his. But Dick was careless of his earnings.

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

I hope my young readers will like him as I do, without being blind to his faults. Perhaps, although he was only a boot-black, they may find something in him to imitate.

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Now, in the boot-blacking business, as well as in higher avocations, the same rule prevails, that energy and industry are rewarded, and indolence suffers. Dick was energetic and on the alert for business, but Johnny was the reverse. The consequence was that Dick earned probably three times as much as the other.

Related Symbols: Bootblacking Box, Restaurants
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

“I’m in luck,” thought our hero complacently. “I guess I’ll go to Barnum’s to-night, and see the bearded lady, the eight-foot giant, the two-foot dwarf, and the other curiosities, too numerous to mention.”

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’m afraid you haven’t washed your face this morning,” said Mr. Whitney […]

“They didn’t have no wash-bowls at the hotel where I stopped,” said Dick.

“What hotel did you stop at?”

“The Box Hotel.”
“The Box Hotel?”
“Yes, sir, I slept in a box on Spruce Street.”

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker), Mr. Whitney (speaker), Frank Whitney
Related Symbols: The Suit
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

When Dick was dressed in his new attire, with his face and hands clean, and his hair brushed, it was difficult to imagine that he was the same boy.

Related Symbols: The Suit
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Dick succeeded in getting quite a neat-looking cap, which corresponded much better with his appearance than the one he had on. The last, not being considered worth keeping, Dick dropped on the sidewalk, from which, on looking back, he saw it picked up by a brother boot-black who appeared to consider it better than his own.

Related Symbols: The Suit, Bootblacking Box
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Turning towards our hero, he said, “May I inquire, young man, whether you are largely invested in the Erie Railroad?”

Related Symbols: The Suit, Restaurants
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“Did you ever read the Bible?” asked Frank, who had some idea of the neglected state of Dick’s education.
“No,” said Dick. “I’ve heard it’s a good book, but I never read one. I ain’t much on readin’. It makes my head ache.”

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker), Frank Whitney (speaker)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

“Some boys is born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Victoria’s boys is born with a gold spoon, set with di’monds; but gold and silver was scarce when I was born, and mine was pewter.”

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker), Frank Whitney
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Though Frank did not know it, one of the queen’s palaces is far from being as fine a looking building as the Fifth Avenue Hotel. St. James’ Palace is a very ugly-looking brick structure, and appears much more like a factory than like the home of royalty. There are few hotels in the world as fine-looking as this democratic institution.

Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

“I know his game,” whispered Dick. “Come along and you’ll see what it is.”

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker), Frank Whitney
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

I ain’t got no mother. She died when I wasn’t but three years old. My father went to sea; but he went off before mother died, and nothin’ was ever heard of him. I expect he got wrecked, or died at sea.

Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

There isn’t but one thing to do. Just give me back that money, and I’ll see that you’re not touched. If you don’t, I’ll give you up to the first p’liceman we meet.

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker), Frank Whitney
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Save your money, my lad, buy books, and determine to be somebody, and you may yet fill an honorable position.

Related Symbols: The Suit
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

I’ll make a bargain with you. I can’t read much more’n a pig; and my writin’ looks like hens’ tracks. I don’t want to grow up knowin’ no more’n a four-year-old boy. If you’ll teach me readin’ and writin’ evenin’s, you shall sleep in my room every night.

Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

Dick read this letter with much satisfaction. It is always pleasant to be remembered, and Dick had so few friends that it was more to him than to boys who are better provided. Again, he felt a new sense of importance in having a letter addressed to him. It was the first letter he had ever received. If it had been sent to him a year before, he would not have been able to read it. But now, thanks to Fosdick's instructions, he could not only read writing, but he could write a very good hand himself.

Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

I've give up sleepin' in boxes, and old wagons, findin' it didn't agree with my constitution. I've hired a room in Mott Street, and have got a private tooter,

who rooms with me and looks after my studies in the evenin'. Mott Street ain't very fashionable; but my manshun on Fifth Avenoo isn't finished yet, and I'm afraid it won't be till I'm a gray-haired veteran. I've got a hundred dollars towards it, which I've saved from my earnin's. I haven't forgot what you and your uncle said to me, and I'm trying to grow up 'spectable.

Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 27 Quotes

“…you were ‘Ragged Dick.’ You must drop that name, and think of yourself now as—”

“Richard Hunter, Esq.” said our hero, smiling.

“A young gentleman on the way to fame and fortune,” added Fosdick.

Related Characters: Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter (speaker), Henry Fosdick (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bootblacking Box
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Ragged Dick LitChart as a printable PDF.
Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks PDF

Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter Character Timeline in Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks

The timeline below shows where the character Richard “Ragged Dick” Hunter appears in Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Ragged Dick Is Introduced to the Reader
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Dick is shaken awake by a random man who has passed him in the street. Dick... (full context)
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The man is curious how Dick came by the money for a theater ticket. Dick assures him that he earned it... (full context)
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Parting ways with the stranger, Dick begins to solicit clients. He jokes with his first customer, telling the businessman that shoeshine... (full context)
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The man, Mr. Greyson, is amused and takes an instant liking to Dick. When Greyson pays for his shoeshine, Dick is unable to provide the man with the... (full context)
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When Mr. Greyson departs, Dick continues to search for customers. He is a hardworking young man, the narrator declares, though... (full context)
Chapter 2: Johnny Nolan
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After working for an hour or so, Dick begins to get hungry. He’s earned some money, so he can afford breakfast. He purchases... (full context)
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After their breakfast is over, Dick and Johnny begin to go their separate ways, when Johnny suddenly takes cover in an... (full context)
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Dick thinks to himself that, while he probably wouldn’t like country life either, he’s glad that... (full context)
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Dick presents the bill to the store’s clerk for change. However, when the clerk takes it... (full context)
Chapter 3: Dick Makes a Proposition
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Since the clerk won’t listen, Dick leaves the shop to tell his customer what has happened. The two return, and Dick’s... (full context)
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Dick offers to turn his pockets inside out to prove that he has no other bills... (full context)
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When the bill is discovered in the clerk’s possession, he is immediately fired. Dick’s customer offers him a handsome reward for all of his trouble—money which Dick quickly decides... (full context)
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While searching for his next customer, Dick stumbles upon Mr. Whitney and Frank. Mr. Whitney is apologizing to his nephew, because the... (full context)
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Dick, listening in on their conversation, offers to be Frank’s tour guide. Both Frank and his... (full context)
Chapter 4: Dick’s New Suit
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Once at the hotel, Dick is presented with a suit by Mr. Whitney. Though it was Frank’s previously, it’s still... (full context)
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Frank is suitably impressed by Dick’s change in appearance, and the two agree that all that’s needed to complete the ensemble... (full context)
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Dick and Frank make their way into the city, Dick pointing out landmarks along the way.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Chatham Street and Broadway
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Dick navigates to the corner of Chatham and Broadway, where a series of ready-made clothing shops... (full context)
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Eventually Dick and Frank find a proper hat store, and Frank buys a new hat for Dick,... (full context)
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The two make their way back from Chatham and Broadway, with Dick continuing to point out landmarks. Frank expresses his amazement that the city can hold so... (full context)
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On their sight-seeing tour, Dick and Frank visit the New York Hospital and Taylor’s Saloon, where they eat ice cream... (full context)
Chapter 6: Up Broadway to Madison Square
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Leaving the shop, Dick continues to show Frank the sights, moving up Broadway to Madison Square. Here, he mentions,... (full context)
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Dick adds that reading makes his head hurt, especially when big words are involved. Frank replies... (full context)
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Dick is quite surprised by the generosity that Frank is showing to him, despite his lowly... (full context)
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Looking at a fourteen-foot-high bronze statue of George Washington in Union Park, Dick jokes that Washington has grown since his presidency. Frank notes Dick’s queer sense of humor,... (full context)
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Frank tells Dick the story of Dick Whittington, another “Ragged Dick.” Whittington is befriended by a rich merchant... (full context)
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Dick replies that it’s a good story, but says he doubts he’d have that sort of... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Pocket-book
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Dick and Frank make their way to the Fifth Avenue Hotel, which Frank knows by name.... (full context)
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As Dick and Frank walk and talk, they encounter a conman whom Dick has some knowledge of.... (full context)
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Dick, knowing that the wallet is stuffed with fake money, gives the conman a fake bill... (full context)
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When the conman discovers that Dick has given him a fake bill, he returns, and threatens to call the police on... (full context)
Chapter 8: Dick’s Early History
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Frank asks Dick about his early childhood. He learns that the boy has always lived in New York... (full context)
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Dick made his living in a variety of ways before becoming a boot-black. He was a... (full context)
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Dick thanks his companion and says that he wishes more people were like Frank and Mr.... (full context)
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Frank questions Dick about his schooling and suggests that the boy attend a night school to enhance his... (full context)
Chapter 9: A Scene in a Third Avenue Car
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Frank and Dick hop on a horse-drawn public transport to go to Central Park. The transport is remarkably... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 10: Introduces a Victim of Misplaced Confidence
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Frank and Dick arrive at Central Park, which is still under construction. Frank remarks that it doesn’t look... (full context)
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Dick offers to show Frank Wall Street before he ends their tour. There they meet a... (full context)
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The check, however, turned out to be drawn on a made-up bank. Frank and Dick help the young man to find a police officer, who makes a report but says... (full context)
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Dick, however, thinks he knows the con artist based on the description the young man gave... (full context)
Chapter 11: Dick as Detective
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To Frank’s surprise, Dick confronts the man, acting as though he were an agent of the police. He tells... (full context)
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The con artist hastily hands the money over to Dick and dashes from the ferry, which has just docked. Dick and Frank decide to remain... (full context)
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...and return his money to him. The young man is overwhelmed with gratitude and shakes Dick’s hand so enthusiastically that the young shoeshine boy has to ask him to stop. The... (full context)
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...for the day, and so decides to end his tour of the city. He asks Dick to come back to the hotel with him, however, before they part ways. (full context)
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At the hotel, they find Mr. Whitney, who remarks that he barely recognizes Dick in his new suit. Whitney tells Dick his life story, noting that he used to... (full context)
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Dick tells Mr. Whitney that he doesn’t intend to be a shoeshine boy forever. Whitney tells... (full context)
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Dick agrees to this plan, and Frank accompanies him upstairs so that the boy can get... (full context)
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Before Dick leaves, Mr. Whitney gives him a five-dollar bill. At first Dick doesn’t feel right about... (full context)
Chapter 12: Dick Hires a Room on Mott Street
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Dick realizes that he’s hungry and so seeks out his supper. Rather than his usual, ramshackle... (full context)
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After his dinner, Dick ponders what to do with his remaining money. Normally, he thinks to himself, he would... (full context)
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Thus, Dick resolves to himself to rent his own room. He finds one in a somewhat run-down... (full context)
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Dick expresses amazement, to himself, about how comforting the idea of having a bed to sleep... (full context)
Chapter 13: Mickey Maguire 
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Dick awakens in his room the next morning and surprises himself by washing up before he... (full context)
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Though he’s hungry again, Dick decides that he has to earn some money before getting breakfast. He doesn’t want to... (full context)
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Dick finds that his new suit enables him to get customers more quickly, and he earns... (full context)
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Returning to work, Dick finds himself confronted by Micky Maguire, a young hooligan who takes offense to Dick’s new... (full context)
Chapter 14: A Battle and a Victory
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After a few words, Maguire throws a punch at Dick, who easily avoids it and returns with one of his own for Maguire. Maguire tries... (full context)
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Dick explains to the police officer that Maguire didn’t like Dick because he “went to a... (full context)
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The officer advises Dick that shoe-shining is honest work, and that he should keep to it until something better... (full context)
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Leaving the officer, Dick makes his way to a bank and opens a savings account. Because he’s had such... (full context)
Chapter 15: Dick Secures a Tutor
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The next morning, while shining shoes, Dick remembers that he failed to return the change he’d promised to Mr. Greyson days earlier.... (full context)
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Greyson is surprised both by Dick’s new appearance and the honesty he showed in returning the change. He asks Dick if... (full context)
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Later that same evening, Dick goes out to dinner and there recognizes another shoeshine boy, Fosdick. The boy hasn’t had... (full context)
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As they talk, Dick learns that Fosdick had intended to go to college, but his plans were thwarted when... (full context)
Chapter 16: The First Lesson
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Prior to their first lesson, that very night, Fosdick attempts to gauge Dick’s existing knowledge. He learns that Dick has had a grand total of two days of... (full context)
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Fosdick finds an appropriately simple newspaper article on which Dick can begin. Dick struggles at first, but the narrator remarks that he’s a quick study,... (full context)
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...the boys grow tired and end the lesson in order to get ready for bed. Dick is surprised when his friend kneels at the bedside to pray before getting into bed.... (full context)
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The next morning, Dick tells his landlord that Fosdick will be living there as well. She agrees, while adding... (full context)
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Recognizing that Fosdick isn’t very good at soliciting customers, Dick begins to work in tandem with the young boy. Dick solicits multiple customers, always sending... (full context)
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At week’s end, Dick contemplates going to Mr. Greyson’s Sunday School. He’s almost talked himself out of it when... (full context)
Chapter 17: Dick’s First Appearance in Society
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At the church, Dick and Fosdick find Mr. Greyson, who sits the boys with him and his family for... (full context)
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On the way to, and during, lunch, Dick finds himself talking incessantly with Mr. Greyson’s daughter, Ida. She thinks that Dick is just... (full context)
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At Sunday School, Mr. Greyson becomes aware of Dick’s complete lack of religious education and graciously adjusts his lesson plan to a more basic... (full context)
Chapter 18: Mickey Maguire’s Second Defeat
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Maguire runs away from Dick and Fosdick as soon as he’s spotted, but Dick gives chase. When Maguire trips and... (full context)
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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. (full context)
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Dick has also made great progress with his studies, and Fosdick informs him that he’s ready... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 20: Nine Months Later
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Nine months pass, during which Fosdick receives a raise at his job and Dick continues to have remarkable success as a shoeshine boy. His bank account, which he has... (full context)
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Dick’s studies have also improved. Now he can read quite well in addition to writing and... (full context)
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A few days later, Dick encounters Tom Wilkins, another bootblack about Dick’s age. Tom’s mother has broken her arm and... (full context)
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Dick quickly agrees to pay the family’s rent, a total of four dollars, even though Tom... (full context)
Chapter 21: Dick Loses His Bank-book
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On returning home, however, Dick is surprised to find his bankbook missing from the locked drawer where he kept it.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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The narrator notes that, though Dick has grown fond of having wealth and to derive pleasure from the act of responsibility... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
Chapter 22: Tracking the Thief
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...provide a bit of Travis’ back story. He had indeed stolen the passbook after hearing Dick and Fosdick talk about their savings one night. A lazy young man, Travis has heard... (full context)
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Dick makes his way to the bank as soon as it opens and tells the clerk—who... (full context)
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As Dick is preparing to leave the bank (in order to return to shining shoes), he spies... (full context)
Chapter 23: Travis Is Arrested
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...he’s sick with the measles. The clerk replies that he must be feeling better, as Dick jumps from behind the counter to confront Travis. (full context)
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...the door by a police officer who drags him off as Travis yells threats to Dick. The narrator again intervenes to say that Travis would be convicted to nine months in... (full context)
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Dick immediately leaves the bank in order to give Tom Wilkins his money, so that the... (full context)
Chapter 24: Dick Receives a Letter
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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On the way back home, Dick encounters Micky Maguire, who is thrilled to see Dick back in his raggedy clothes. Dick... (full context)
Chapter 25: Dick Writes His First Letter
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Back home, Dick shows Fosdick the letter. Fosdick suggests that Dick write one in return and even offers... (full context)
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On the way to mailing the letter, Dick encounters Johnny Nolan, whose station remains the same as ever. Johnny is amazed to learn... (full context)
Chapter 26: An Exciting Adventure
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Dick finally decides it’s time to find another job and begins to apply, though he finds... (full context)
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...lavish monetary rewards for whoever saves his son. Before he even hears these offers, however, Dick has jumped into the water to save the boy. (full context)
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Dick manages to save the boy only in the nick of time, and the child’s weight... (full context)
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Mr. Rockwell has Dick and Fosdick brought to his house, along with his son. He supplies Dick with a... (full context)
Chapter 27: Conclusion
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At the counting house, Mr. Rockwell introduces himself to Dick properly and asks the boy some questions. Dick tells him about his past, his change... (full context)
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Rockwell offers Dick a position at his counting house starting at ten dollars a week, an amount which... (full context)
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On leaving, Dick realizes that he will be able to save at least half of his weekly salary,... (full context)