Summary of Horatio Alger

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In the essay “Horatio Alger” by Harlon L. Dalton, Dalton argues that the Horatio Alger myth regarding commercial success is false and is socially destructive. He first claims that a individuals success in life cannot be determined by that individual himself. He argues that racism and judgment have an influence on the success that person can achieve in his lifetime. He introduces Stephen Carters “best black syndrome” saying that blacks are being recognized for being the “best black”, as if they were competing against each other rather than against everyone (87). Secondly he disagrees with Alger’s argument saying that everyone can reach his/her own true potential. Dalton, however, states that due to some economic circumstances, many people are never able to reach their true potential. Also, according to Dalton it is always possible to argue that a person could have tried harder in a certain field that would’ve helped them gain success. Lastly, Alger’s myth says that people are chosen based on merit, which Dalton disagrees with. He states that people and decisions aren’t chosen solely on merit. In Dalton’s example he states that there are multiple things people look at before electing a judge other then merit (89). He includes merit in the mix but he also includes things such as common sense and brains to spare, which have to be considered. He concludes by saying reality becomes a lot harder when myths, such as Algers, tell people they can accomplish anything.

Word Count: 243
Works Cited
Dalton, Harlon L. "Horatio Alger." Readings for Analytical Writing. Third ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008. 87-92. Print.
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