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

by

Horatio Alger

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Tom Wilkins Character Analysis

Tom Wilkins is a bootblack, who like Fosdick and Ragged Dick, is honest and hardworking. Unlike Fosdick, and like Dick, Wilkins makes good money for himself. However, Wilkins is not homeless, as he lives with his mother and siblings. Lately, however, Wilkins’ mother has been so ill that she can’t work, and he’s been forced to use all of his earnings to buy food for his family. Without their mother’s income, the family finds it impossible to pay their rent. They are preparing to be evicted when Dick steps in with the requisite rent money, which he pulls from his savings account. An exceptionally honest and thoughtful boy, Wilkins at first refuses this charity, admitting to Dick that he’ll never be able to pay him back and worrying that Dick himself will need the money. Ultimately, however, he takes the gift. In this way, Dick is able to pay forward the charity that Mr. Whitney had given him.
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Tom Wilkins Character Timeline in Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks

The timeline below shows where the character Tom Wilkins 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 20: Nine Months Later
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Fortune Favors the Industrious Theme Icon
A few days later, Dick encounters Tom Wilkins, another bootblack about Dick’s age. Tom’s mother has broken her arm and is unable... (full context)
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Dick quickly agrees to pay the family’s rent, a total of four dollars, even though Tom admits that he’ll never be able to pay the amount back. Dick doesn’t have the... (full context)
Chapter 21: Dick Loses His Bank-book
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 23: Travis Is Arrested
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Dick immediately leaves the bank in order to give Tom Wilkins his money, so that the younger boy can stave off his family’s eviction. Dick... (full context)