Ragtime

Summary

Part III, Chapters 37–39; Part IV, Chapter 40

Summary Part III, Chapters 37–39; Part IV, Chapter 40

In describing Father's death on the Lusitania, Doctorow touches upon the relationship between personal lives and public history, as he does throughout the novel. He writes, "Poor Father, I see his final exploration. He arrives at the new place, his hair risen in astonishment, his mouth and eyes dumb. His toe scuffs a soft storm of sand, he kneels and his arms spread in pantomimic celebration, the immigrant, as in every moment of his life, arriving eternally on the shore of his Self." Implicit in this passage is the narrator's observation that although Father clearly occupies a socio-economic position separate than that of the cast majority of immigrants, his emotional state resembles that of an immigrant. Because he never attains a profound self- knowledge, his social and economic status remain irrelevant, and he appears perpetually lost.

In the very last pages of the novel, as Tateh observes a playful scene, Doctorow writes, "He suddenly had an idea for a film. A bunch of children who were pals, white black, fat thin, rich poor, all kinds, mischievous little urchins who would have funny adventures in their own neighborhood, a society of raga muffins, like all of us, a gang, getting into trouble and getting out again." Here Doctorow alludes not only to Tateh's career as a filmmaker, but also to the entire nature of the American dream. This description of Tateh's idea for a film constitutes the idealistic vision of absolute inclusion in American society, if not the reality.