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Horatio Alger and the Spirit of Americanism

on August 15th, 2013 by admin

It was only 5 years ago that I became acquainted with the writer Horatio Alger, Jr.  As a child I was never introduced to any of Alger’s books.  But now I just completed an exceptional book of Alger’s called Ragged Dick.  Dick is the story of a young boy living on the streets.  Young Dick makes his living as a boot-black(aka shoe shiner).

Despite living on the streets, there’s a benevolence that present in Dick.  Conscientious about his business, Dick keenly understood that if he is to make money, he must present himself as competent and responsible.  Dick refused to take advantage of anyone he encountered.  Another projection of Dick’s benevolence was his willingness to help those most important to him.

Most importantly, what the author stressed was Dick’s ambition.  Dick recognized his limitations of poverty and illiteracy.  Rather than accept his fate passively, Dick made an effort to learn from other young boys.  From middle class Frank Whitney, whom Dick gave a tour of New York City; Dick learned how to dress professionally from Frank.  To another street kid named Henry Fosdick who taught Dick how to read and write.

I believe that juvenile literature should have a benevolent universe outlook.  Meaning that the world can be understood, that goals can be achieved, and adversity can be overcome.

It is no accident that Horatio Alger has been lost to American children.  This is a uniquely American story, and is greatly needed for our increasingly morally bankrupt culture.  Nihilism has taken root and is slowly chipping away at our nation’s founding principles.  Is it any wonder we see stories of children like this more frequently than ever before.  I include Trayvon Martin as a lost child who chose a thug lifestyle that ultimately got him killed.  It is bad enough when children are born to incompetent parents who cannot offer a proper way to live.  But education gave a way out to for children who had the misfortune of being born into poverty.  Sadly this is no longer the case.   I believe our culture has been degraded due to a dumbed down education system from pre-kindergarten to graduate school.

I encourage you to read the works of Horatio Alger.  Whether for your own pleasure or for your children.   I felt much better after reading this book.  In fact, it has given me courage to continue on my goals.

Bookish Babe


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