E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime is a story involving certain characters, each trying to find his or her place in America. Doctorow focus’s on many themes throughout the novel, however, one theme that he gives to the reader from the very beginning of the novel is the American dream. Many characters throughout the novel individually take diverse journeys in order to fulfill what they might describe as “The American Dream.” Throughout Ragtime several characters venture upon momentous journeys whether they be sensible or unwise, in order to try and achieve their personal pursuit of the American dream.
Tateh’s dream of survival and the basic pursuit of happiness is a worthwhile dream that ventures him through many long journeys with his daughter. Tateh and his daughter, known as “The Little Girl,” are poor immigrants who live in a tenement in New York City. On the verge of losing himself and his daughter, Tateh sets out upon a journey that forever changes his life for the better. As the narrator describes the beginning, “Throwing their few clothes in a musty suitcase [Tateh] took the girl by the hand and left the two- room flat on Hester Street forever” (Doctorow 90). Tateh has made a decision in his life for the better of him and his daughter. Tateh has put he and his daughter in a situation of survival by leaving Hester Street. As Tateh and his daughter continue on their journey Doctorow leaves the reader clues of Tatehs future success. A foreshadowing event occurs while they are on the train, as Doctorow states, “Tateh clutched the suitcase on his lap and kept his eyes on the tracks ahead, shining now in the single beam of the powerful electric headlamp on the front of the train car” (95). The light of the train, revealing the clear path of the tracks, most assuredly symbolized the promising future for Tateh and his daughter. The level of Tateh’s determination and optimism for the future are also revealed in the author’s definitive language.
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