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Ragged Dick narrates a story of juvenile children. The central message of the book is to show that there are friendless and vagrant children in various cities, such as New York. The author has shown how the unfortunate children are suffering in the streets (Algar, pp5). It is through this book that he wants to appeal to his readers to give a helping hand where possible. Hopefully, this will enable those unfortunate children to live a good life. The author received most of his information from observations and conversations with the boys.
Dick has suffered from poverty, and this is revealed in his way of life as he lives in the streets. Even though he is poor, he does not depend on people for help or food (Algar, pp15). This shows that he is determined and very hard-working because he is very business-minded. Even though he is very hard-working, he spends his money on unimportant things. Due to his way of life he indulges in bad habits, such as smoking and gambling. Street children indulge themselves in these behaviors due to boredom and lack of proper guidance (Algar, pp 27).
Many street children are very hard-working because they have to provide for themselves when they are young (Algar, pp 35). This becomes evident after Dick starts to provide for himself when he is still young. The major problem is that he is very extravagant, despite being hard-working. Dick encounters a lot of problems, but sometimes he is very lucky in his daily activities
Dick takes every opportunity to help people, and this is evident when he proposes to be a tour guide for the young man, an offer which the uncle accepts (Algar, pp 54). This shows that despite people taking street children to be a burden, they can help in one way or the other. Street children can become presentable and changed people if they are given a chance. When Dick is taken to the hotel he looks presentable after taking the shore (Algar, pp 67). Dick has all the makings of becoming a good teacher and tour guide. This is evident in the way he shows Frank the important places and shares information on the con artists in the area. This shows that Dick is a very sharp boy who can provide a lot of valuable tips to a new person (Algar, pp77). Dick is an ambitious boy and this is shown by he aspires to hold a big office and become presentable. This aspect shows that children in the streets would also want to become prominent people. Frank finds Dick to be capable of achieving all this only if he changes his behavior and gets a good education. Frank tells Dick about Dick Washington who was very poor, but ended up becoming a mayor in London. This makes Dick's ambitions soar, and he is ready to take Frank's advice in order to become a prominent person.
Dick is a sharp boy and this is evident in the way he does things. When a con man tries to hustle them so that they can pay for a wallet stuffed with papers, Dick realizes it and he offers him a fake bill (Brinkley, pp13). This shows that street children have good surviving tactics, even though they are not educated. When the man realizes that he was given a bogus bill, he returns and threatens Dick. Street children like Dick have good surviving tactics because they learn the hard way from the streets (Brinkley, pp20).
Dick is an orphan as his mother died when he was only three, and his father was lost at sea. This has made him provide a living for himself since the age of seven, which makes him a hard-working person (Algar, pp43). Even though ha has been struggling to make a living by himself, he has never stolen anything from anybody. He has worked as a newsboy, and a street vendor selling matches (Brinkley, pp 43). This shows he is very hard-working and does not depend on anybody.
Street children encounter many unpleasant situations because people think of them as thieves. Dick and Frank encounter an incident with a horse car as they go to Central Park. The two boys sit next to a middle-aged woman who starts complaining about the boys sitting too close to her (Brinkley, pp54). It is after this that she accuses Frank of stealing her purse and suggests that Dick is his accomplice. Frank is so ashamed that he asks the conductor to search him. After the conductor searches the two boys, he finds no purse on them and he advises the woman to check her purse again. The middle-aged woman finds the purse but is not willing to apologize, even though it is her mistake.
Many people think that street children are always cheerful because they do not display their problems (Brinkley, pp 67). This is shown when Frank admires the life of Dick, even though he is from a rich family. Frank offers to be Dick’s friend so that he will not be lonely anymore. Dick and Frank then go back to the hotel and travel to Wall Street where they find a man complaining of being swindled of fifty dollars. Dick then recognizes the swindler after they have boarded a ferry to Brooklyn. Dick is a clever boy, and this becomes evident when he approaches the swindler and warns him that the police are near him and will arrest him. The swindler is so scared that he gives the money to Dick who later passes it to the poor boy (Davison, pp 12). This shows that Dick has a heart of helping people and is mindful of others. The two boys go back to the Astor house where they find Frank’s uncle. Frank’s uncle says that Dick can achieve much more through hard work, determination and a good education. Frank’s uncle gives Dick a five dollar tip and he goes back to the street.
After he receives the five dollar tip from Fran’s uncle, he decides not to squander the money but to use it to rent a room (Davison, pp 23). This shows that Dick has listened to Frank’s advice and he wants to change. He is ready to follow the advice he got from Frank’s uncle in order to live a respectable life. He even starts saving money and gets back to his shoe-shinning work to be able to eat a decent breakfast. He opens a saving account where he is determined to save his money daily. He even puts on respectable clothes which make him look respectable and decent. The other bootblacks are jealous of his way of living and they even start criticizing him.
Dick is trying really hard to be honest and keep a promise he has made to himself. He gives Mr.Greyson some change he owes him, and this makes him very surprised. Greyson is so surprised with how honest Dick has become that he invites him to attend a Sunday school class. Dick finds a bootblack at the Sunday school who no longer wants to live in the street. Dick offers to help him as he invites him for suppers and shares a room with him (Davison, pp32). The bootblack offers to help Dick in studying and they start their first lesson using a newspaper. The bootblack discovers that Dick has a problem reading but he is determined to study. When Dick sees Henry praying before they go to bed, he is determined to learn how to pray. Dick is doing his best to be able to become a better person. He has started putting money aside and sleeping indoors at night. He even has started considering the idea of going to church.
On a Sunday morning, Dick and Henry go to church where they find Mr. Gregory and his family. The two boys are offered lunch but Dick is very ashamed of his table manners (Davison, pp56). This makes the daughter of Mr.Gregory fall in love with his innocent and shy behavior . Dick is then attacked by a bootblack known as Maguire for the second time and he throws a stone at Dick’s head. Dick runs after Maguire, knocks him down and warns him not to attack him again. Dick is determined to change his way of living, since he has already stopped spending all his money on entertainment. His days and nights are dedicated to work and studies. He is very thankful to Henry for offering him classes and he hopes to get a good job because he is educated now. Henry complains because he does not have descent clothes to attend an interview. Dick feels sorry for Henry and he offers some savings for him to buy clothes.
After Fosdick gets decent clothes, he applies for a job in a store. Mr. Grayson offers him a strong recommendation which helps him get employment. Henry starts earning good money and becomes successful, while Dick is getting many customers (Davison, pp65). The two boys have saved a lot of money and they are living a good life. Henry advises Dick to get a professional job because he believes that he has the same education as he does. Dick encounters a boy known as Tom Wilkins who faces eviction from his lodgings. Dick offers to help the boy and goes to the house to get his saving book (Davison, pp 70). He realizes that it has been stolen and they confront the landlady to know who has entered their room. The landlady suspects Travis who has keys to Dick and Henry’s room. Dick goes to the bank before Travis has stolen the money and he withdraws two dollars to help Tom. That evening Dick receives a letter from Mr. Whitney and he asks him to write back.