Dick’s suit symbolizes who he wants to be in life. It’s said that the clothes make the man (or woman), and nowhere is that more true than in Ragged Dick. Dick literally changes over night when he’s presented with a new suit, thanks to Frank and Mr. Whitney. Prior to this, Dick had been a bit of a vagabond, wasting his money on luxuries like cigars and gambling. With just the addition of the suit, however, Dick begins his rise to respectability. This is because the suit is more than just a collection of tailored fabric—it represents Dick’s ideal image of himself. Thus, when Dick (and later, Fosdick) improves this outer image, he has no choice but to improve his life choices to match it, propelling himself closer and closer to his ideal self.
The Suit Quotes in Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks
“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.”
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.
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.