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Ragtime

E. L. Doctorow

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

full title ·  Ragtime

author · Edgar Lawrence Doctorow

type of work · Novel

genre · Historical fiction; national bildungsroman

language · English

time and place written · United States, 1970s

date of first publication · 1975

publisher · Random House

narrator · Anonymous and omniscient. The narrative voice is ambiguous. Perhaps it is the little boy at a later point; perhaps it is Tateh's little girl; perhaps it is both of them.

point of view · This novel is narrated in the third person omniscient; occasionally the narrator speaks in the first person plural.

tone · Ironic, rhetorical

tense · Past and present

setting (time) · From 1900 to 1917

setting (place) · New York City; New Rochelle, New York; Lawrence, Massachusetts; the pyramids of Egypt

protagonist · The role of the protagonist is shared by all the main characters.

major conflict · Coalhouse Walker attempts to execute a revolution, while Father and his family react to the changing times.

rising action · Father's voyage to the North Pole; Conklin's damage of Coalhouse Walker's car

climax · Coalhouse's seizure of the Morgan residence

falling action · Coalhouse's death

themes · The Difficulty of Accepting Change; The Struggle for Stability and Meaning; The Impact of Technological Development on Culture; Imprisonment and False Liberation

motifs · The Nature of Historical Truth; The Motion Picture and Photography; The Ambiguity of the Narrative Voice

symbols · Coalhouse Walker; Father; Evelyn Nesbit

foreshadowing · In the first chapter, the description of Father's family in New Rochelle has a certain tentative, precarious quality that foreshadows he subsequent shocks they will experience.

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