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E. L. Doctorow


Key Facts

Key Facts

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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Read papers about it

by daniel_ernst, December 12, 2017

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: