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Muckraking in the Novel by E. L. Doctorow Ragtime The novel Ragtime by E. L.
Doctorow addresses the themes of power of some people over another. The novel war written in 1970 s and addresses the events of the beginning of the twentieth century, but some of the topic arisen by the author remain relevant until today. One of the key themes in the novel Ragtime is power abuse and exploration its origins. E.
L. Doctorow exposes people who use their power and back up ethnic and social antagonism in the society for support of their personal interests. It is important to mention that the title Ragtime closely refers to the main theme of the novel. African American Scott Joplin introduced the music style Ragtime. Ragtime is jazz characterized by elaborately syncopated rhythm.
The term Ragtime in the title of the novel refers to the problems of African Americans in the society, their conflict with whites. The title also refers to the rapid technical progress, which allowed some people to gain profits but deprived other people of their work places, because machines replaced their labor. In all times of the history the rapid social changes and the destruction of traditional life are usually accompanied by destructive and dangerous accumulation of power in hands of a few people. Ragtime symbolizes such changes in the beginning of the twentieth century. E. L.
Doctorow explores the power abuse starting with the confrontation of Willie Conklin and Coalhouse Walker. Obnoxious and mean Willie Conklin is the product of the Ragtime century. He is a white man who works as a fire chief. When Conklin encounters a successful ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker, who owns new expensive car, he is enraged. Some people at the beginning of the twentieth century did not consider African Americans as people.
Theyre children and they have to be treated like children. Father tended to agree with this view, for it suggested a consensus. He recalled an observation made in the Philippines ten years before where he had fought under General Leonard F. Wood against the Moro guerillas. Our little brown brothers have to be taught a lesson, a staff officer had said, sticking a campaign pin in a map. (Doctorow, p. 77) This extract would fit for describing animals, and people used to refer in such manner to people. As the result of such social views, it is not surprising that Willie Conklin feels resentful that the African American possesses something that he cannot afford.
Coalhouse Walker destroys the familiar order and he should be punished. Willie Conklin and volunteers from the Emerald Isle first bar While Coalhouse's path, and then wreck his car. When Coalhouse is searching for justice, police arrests him. (Doctorow, pp. 131 - 133; 145 - 150). The author describes utterly repellent fact, when one person is empowered to abuse another only due to the ethical differences. The society that should defend the rights of its member deprived him of the rights. Another example of power abuse is wealthy financier J.
P. Morgan, the real person, introduced into the novel by E. L. Doctorow. J.
P. Morgan expresses his belief in the era of progress. He thinks that people who are gifted and have value of the society would find their place. Why do you suppose an idea which had currency in every age and civilization of mankind disappears in modern times?
Because only in the age of science have these men and their wisdom dropped from view. I'll tell you why: The rise of mechanistic science, of Newton and Descartes, was a great conspiracy, a great devilish conspiracy to destroy our apprehension of reality and our awareness of the transcendentally gifted among us. But they are with us today nevertheless. They are with us in every age. They come back, you see? They come back! (Doctorow, p. 176) J.
P. Morgan possesses the power which can outstrip the parliament. People like J. P. Morgan can pass the laws and decide the destiny of people, and this person discusses the possibility of the survival of the fittest in the contemporary society. The transcendentally gifted involve people who understood the flow of the progress and could gain interest from it.
All the other people will be left for their own device but they will have African Americans or other ethnic groups to blame. E. L. Doctorow claims that there is no different between social and ethical oppression and segregation and that any person can become the subject of oppression. People who possess power very often invent segregation when it is suitable for them. When it is suitable to exclude African Americans from the society, powerful people invent racial segregation.
When it is suitable to exchange peoples labor by machines, they invent theories of the survival of the fittest. Willie Conklin abused Coalhouse Walker, but it is not accidentally that Walker and his followers decided to take hold of J. P. Morgan. Coalhouse Walker wanted to destroy the root of all troubles, and Willie Conklin was the victim of his own ignorance. "Two nights of discussion had turned up the candidacy of Pierpont Morgan. More than any mayor or governor he represented in Coalhouse's mind the power of the white world.
For years he had been portrayed in cartoons and caricatures, with his cigar and his top hat, as the incarnation of power. " (Doctorow, p. 212) Coalhouse Walker wanted to attract attention of the society to the role of such people like J. P. Morgan in advancement of social and political violence. The novel Ragtime by E.
L. Doctorow is the example of a muckraking novel. The author first attracts the readers attention to the problem of ethical antagonism and social antagonism. Doctorow analyzes the source of this antagonism and leads the reader to the conclusion that different forms of antagonism would exist in the society until the power is concentrated in hands of few people who follow the principle divide and dominate.
The authors message is that the political and economic system of the contemporary society should be reconstructed. Bibliography Doctorow, E. L. Ragtime. New York: Ballantine Books, 1974.
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