E.L. Doctorow's Novel Ragtime

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E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime

E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime


The history of the ragtime era in America in Ragtime is somewhat Doctorow's personal recreation of the time. It is carefully framed between the years 1902 and 1917, thus portraying the end of nineteenth and the beginning of twentieth century, the time of many changes that overwhelmed the public. Ragtime is different precisely because it gets impossible to have (in a meaningful, I mean) with the resources of cinema or television, we have the sensation of peering through a peephole an entire epoch in the history of the United States. It is a good novel, imaginative, credible, with a coherent plot, with believable characters (good and bad at once, like life itself, etc. Now if I were asked the series in The Independent, I would ask if they have seen the first season of the series and if you answered yes, tell them to save the first book. That is, a good novel out of hand (Sale, 1975).


Doctorow manipulates history, parodies it, and plays with the past considered to be true. He mixes a whole range of historical and fictional characters with the purpose of creating an image of America at the turn of the century (Hutcheon, 1988b). This is where one encounters Doctorow's genius. Whereas the reader may be even sure that the story about the children working is true, that the writer based that on pure fact, the part about lynched Negroes may evoke doubt, and one believes that the story is fiction. However, the image of poverty becoming fashion again calls to mind doubt - doubt that this may still be factual. The reader can never be sure where the factual stops and fictional begins. These two are so skillfully woven in Doctorow's images of the past that by ...
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