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.
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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Ragtime is a rare kind of novel that mixes the historical context with fictional events, but in the meantime, it questions the classical interpretations of American history. The narrative is quite puzzling, for better understanding, read papers about it:
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