Author: E. L. Doctorow


Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow is a novel about a wealthy family living in New Rochelle, New York. The family business is the manufature of flags and fireworks, as an easy source of wealth due to the enthusiasm of patriotic display. Into this family comes an abandoned black child and his mother, Sarah. A professional musician gains the families respect begins playing ragtime music on their untuned piano. After the mother of the child passes away Mother then adopts the neglected child.  In the slums of New York single father, Tateh, struggles to support himself and his daughter, Little Girl. The daughters beauty attracts Evelyn Nesbit, a notorious socialite. Evelyn begins to help support their family and get Tateh to take his daughter out of the city. By the end of this novel you will notice how three families have emerged together leaving Father financially successful, abandoned and unhappy.

Character Analysis

(Mother) looses faith in people quickly. Her and Fathers relationship changes directions quickly after he returns from the Arctic. Throughout the story her relationship with others change as well. As her thoughts about others are changing it provides us with insight to her emotional, psychological and intellectual processes of mind.

(Father) has an emotional state that resembles an immigrant. His social and economic status remain irrelevant, he appears lost at many times and he as well never attains a profound self-knowledge. Father also represents the traditional norm of the late nineteenth century in America.

(Mother's Young Brother) is a young, idealistic man with little direction in life. He feels as if he has a purpose in life when he joins Coalhouse's group of revolutionaries.

(Coalhouse Walker) , black musician, provides insight to race relations in the turn of America. He represents all African Americans who challenge the expectations many whites have of them. His character soon becomes the angry black male as he begins to be violent to resolve his feelings toward society.


This story is about a family at the beginning of a new century trying to come to terms with itself and dealing with the demands and desires of the people who make up the population. Mother tries to help out the young child and his mother towards the beginning of the story and as the story goes on people continue to help others build up to a better life style. I think this is a good story to read so as new centuries come along people will take lead to help others who don't necessarily know the correct path to follow.