Sex in Ragtime
Throughout the novel, there are instances of both violent and more refined sexual references. While an obvious reason for these is the titillating effects of them, there are deeper, more relevant reasons for them. There are three main groups within which the sexual activity takes place: Father and Mother, Younger Brother and Evelyn Nesbit, and Harry Houdini and Harry K. Thaw. Some are more obvious and explicit than others, but they all have great purpose. The sexual activity between Father and Mother is used to define their relationship, sexual activity by Younger Brother is used as a replacement for violence, and the one scene between Houdini and Thaw is used to elucidate the difference between the classes. The sexual activity that is most relevant to the story line occurs in the relationship between Father and Mother. While these scenes definitely imply sexual activity, they are definitely not as intense as the erotic scenes between other characters. After their relationship has been analyzed, one can see that the relationship between Mother and Father is one that seems to be held together purely by sexual desire. The first reference to this is at the very beginning of the novel. Doctorow writes, "On Sunday afternoon, after dinner, Father and Mother went upstairs and closed the bedroom door"(p 4). Their marriage is happy as long as they continue to have a good physical relationship. Whereas in the beginning of the novel Mother and Father's relationship was good, by the end of the novel "He felt it had been stupid to leave his wife alone"(p 233). Mother's disdain for Father is conveyed to the reader when he tells her that he will be taking their boy to the Baseball game on the following day. Doctorow writes, "
she was checked in her response, which was to condemn him for an idiot, and when he left the room she could only wonder that she had had that thought in the first place, so separated from ant feeling of love"(p 226)....
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