Restaurants act as symbolic indicators of social status in Ragged Dick. At the beginning of the novel, Dick eats at a restaurant that’s little more than someone’s apartment. It serves cheap food of questionable nutritious value, but it fills his belly for what little money he has. As Dick improves his lot in life, he’s able to frequent better restaurants, which serve better food. When he does this, he’s always aware of his situation’s social significance: that he wouldn’t have previously been allowed in that restaurant, that he sees some of his customers there, and so forth. Even when Fosdick and Dick have comfortably established themselves and are no longer poor, they still dream of eating at Delmonico’s, a restaurant that the rich and famous frequent. In this way, the boys are dreaming of completing the next step in their journey: from poverty to the middle class to, ultimately, their dream of upper-class living.
Restaurants Quotes in Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks
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.