Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics
How do the novel's characters react to changes in their environment? What do their reactions say about their social positions, their historical significance as characters, and their individual personalities?
How does Doctorow address the role of technology in the lives of individuals? What does he imply are the advantages and disadvantages of science and technology?
The narrative voice in Ragtime often seems ambiguous. What could Doctorow have hoped to convey by this ambiguity? Who could possibly be narrating? What insight do they have into the characters' inner thoughts and feelings?
Suggested Essay Topics
How does Doctorow incorporate metaphors of imprisonment and false liberation into Ragtime? How does imprisonment manifest itself in the novel's characters, psychologically, economically, and physically?
How do some of the main characters serve allegorical roles? What movements or social trends are they intended to represent?
What questions and concerns does Doctorow raise about the nature of historical truth?
How does the struggle for stability and meaning manifest itself in the characters' thoughts and actions?
What is the role of the motion picture in Ragtime? What is its significance as a cultural influence at the turn of the century in the United States? How is the process of "duplication" significant?
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