Thursday, November 24, 2011

Success and Improvement

Mark Twain, Poor Little Stephen Girard

This short story by Mark Twain mocks the ideas introduced in Horatio Alger’s novels including Ragged Dick of “rags to riches”. The story implies that the wondrous tales of luck we are told are unrealistic. The idea that a boy collecting pins outside a bank can by chance be taken in and simply have everything handed to him is just not going to happen. Everything Alger depicts in his novel Ragged Dick is just stumbled upon and almost “meant to be”. For example he just happened to meet Fosdick who was able to educate him and because of this we cannot use Ragged Dick as a basis for life.

The clever description of the Alger occurrence of events and the realistic ways in which events would occur define what the “Horatio Alger myth” has established. In reality we would assume that in modern terms the latter would almost certainly happen and he’d never be able to succeed in achieving the dreams of “rags to riches” or even “rags to respectability”. Hard work does not always mean rewards as Alger falsely created. Furthermore the ideas of Alger contradict themselves in many ways as he wanted to encourage young children of the importance of hard, honest work however Ragged Dick we can admit has worked hard all his life but he is ultimately not the honest human being children should wish to impersonate.

Alger has provided a false hope for many which Twain here disposes of for the truth. Twain does however contradict his negativity for Alger myth “I guess the daughter was a son” almost making excuses as to why it didn’t happen for him as it cannot be that the bank man was incapable of helping the boy.

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