Ragged Dick and The Pursuit of Happyness Themes
Both the “Ragged Dick” by Horatio Alger and “The Pursuit of Happyness” by Will Smith are reflections of individuals who started as underdogs and through their hard work ended up becoming very successful. In this context, underdogs are Ragged Dick and Chris Gardner who are struggling to achieve their goals, but the efforts needed to attain their desires seem to be beyond their reach. In the “Ragged Dick” a teenage boy, Ragged Dick, is working hard to eliminate poverty, and his dreams come true when he attains the status of the middle class. Likewise, in “The Pursuit of Happyness” Chris Gardner presents the struggle of a father who is ready to endure hardships to improve his life as well as that of his son. Ragged Dick begins from the rags and works diligently to overcome the socioeconomic hurdles to climb up the social ladder, and similarly, Chris Gardner finds himself in the same unfortunate situation, but he is determined to work extra hard to improve his life despite the challenges. Dick and Gardner are ideal American underdogs who are trying very hard to realize their American Dreams.Alger depicts Dick who will later refer himself to as “Richard Hunter” as the novel’s hero. Dick finds himself in a poor socioeconomic environment in the street of New York. Instead of attending school, he is shining shoes. However, he is a determined boy and using his natural talents including appearance, charm, and wit he climbs up the social ladder and refers to achieve his desire of becoming a reputable person (Alger 238). Dick appears to embrace good moral character, and he only believes in getting empowered socially through integrity. He is mainly concerned by how people view his status, and as such he uses a lot of his money to assess his value. In the end, Dick has a respected occupation with a high-paying salary, an indication that he has achieved the social class he had desired.
Smith in the film reflects the true story of Christopher Gardener. Gardener starts since to experience life difficulties at a young age until at an adult age when his wife leaves him. He is faced with the life of struggle and together with his son they are evicted from the apartment. They find themselves lonely without a place to go. The future looks dim for the two, and they learn how to live in shelters as well as be ready to face many hardships. Fortunately, Chris never allows despair to defeat them, and he diligently struggles to improve their lives. He works hard, securing an internship with the brokerage firm, and finally full-time employment before becoming a CEO of his firm.In the “Ragged Dick” and “The Pursuit for Happyness” the two characters, Dick and Gardner start life in impoverished conditions. Dick is an orphaned and poor boy who lives by shining shoes in the street. Gardener, on the other hand, he begins from scratch after he is jailed, and his wife leaves him. However, both seem to be motivated by the dictates of the American Dream, and they are have devoted to persevere to achieve their targets. Dick uses his natural attributes to create a ladder for his success while Gardner is determined and focused on improving their lives together with his son. The two seems to be motivated by the American Dream, and they aim to move from rags to riches.
Dick and Gardner represent many Americans whose desires are in line with the fulfillment of the American Dream. The “American Dream” was first used in 1931 by James Truslow to expound on why many people were living their nations to come to settle to America (Ferdinand 75). Truslow explained the American Dream in relation to many people who left Europe escaping poverty, political assassination and religious persecution. Once they settled in America, they dream of achieving dignity, self-fulfillment, personal dream and freedom, economic prosperity, social dream and religious dream (Ferdinand 75). Currently, Americans believe that if someone has managed to attain his or her American, then he has access to some opportunities such us obtaining citizenship, owning a home and being able to acquire education.Alger through Dick exhibits an underdog is working hard to achieve the American Dream. The American Dream has lost its meaning and is tied on the myth of working hard becoming rich without putting into consideration the moral qualities (McGlinn 11). Alder through the character of Dick shows the audience; the American Dream will only be achieved if it is pursued within the dictates of molarity. Dick starts from the humble background, and despite living in streets for long, he believes in following the right way to success. He values people who are close to him, particularly Henry, his friend.
Dick desires to empower himself, and he sees education as one of the channels to achieve self-improvement. He notices that other boys have an advantage over him because they can read and write. He uses his wit to develop a friendship with Henry Fosdick who has had a chance to acquire some education (Alger 131). Dick switches accommodation for tutoring, and at the end he educates himself. As noted in the desires of the America Dream where the religious dream is one of the goals as pointed by McGlinn (12), Dick goes to Sunday school where he meets Mr. Greyson who develops an interest in Dick. Education is the mark of success, as the two boys, Dick and Henry are judged based on their handwriting neatness. Henry is only employed once he satisfies the employer that his handwriting befits that of a clerk. Likewise, Dick has to prove that he has high-quality handwriting before he is employed as a counting room clerk.
Alger again advances the theme of the American Dream when it exhibits clothing as a way to class acceptance. For the first time, Dick wears a suit he realizes that he is treated better than he is usually treated by the waiters, vendors, and shopkeepers. Amazingly, he is homeless bootblack, but stockbroker mistakes him for a successful young man. The taste of respect as perceived in the American Dream dictates is one of a few things that inspire Dick to climb the social ladder (McGlinn 12). Once Dick rescues the drowning son of Mar Rockwell, he is rewarded with nicer clothing which suits him perfectly as a counting-room clerk. He also believes his social standing has raised when he is employed for a starting wage of ten dollars since it is higher than the three-dollar beginning wage for a shop boy.The desire for money as showed through Dick is another true trait of the American Dream. Dick’s desire to work hard and earn more money isolates him from the other boys. He earns more than other boys due to his outstanding personality. However, his habits changes, and he does not spend on non-essential things. Dick and Henry spend money on the basic room since they only need somewhere to sleep and keep their things. The two boys advances and opens the bank account to start saving. They often buy new clothing with the belief that they will help them get good jobs, but in reality, they are living frugal lives. As time progress, Dick seems to be lucky and he is continuously receiving clothing, money gifts and large tips. He has accumulated a good chunk of money, and people want to deceive him, but his streetwise knowledge helps him to avoid being conned. In the pursuance, American Dream acts an underdog until when he attains a middle social class, the American Dream. At last, he is respectable, and he cannot be accused falsely for theft; this is why he is believed when a neighbor steals from his bank account. And indeed, Dick has achieved the American Dream. He is now a reputable member of society, and he belongs to the middle class.
Gardner is a true pursuant of happiness, American Dream. However, he achieves his desires by enduring all the challenges as a real American underdog. Once he is evicted from the boardinghouse, Gardner starts anew in the streets of New York. The descriptions of the disturbing scenes paint Gardner as true American underdog. In the film, Gardner and his son can be seen sleeping in a subway bathroom with only newspapers as their blankets. Gardner is seen sitting and crying while his son attempts to sit (Muccino). Outside, only the sounds of commuters can be heard from far. The above analysis reflects the pathetic state and humble beginning that Gardner had to face, just like Dick. Interestingly, Gardner does not dwell on his sad situation and instead focuses on working to better his life as well as that of his son.
Gardener’s humble background starts while he is a toddler living with his mother and stepfather. His stepfather was abusive, and he would always remind him he was not his dad (Muccino). However, Gardener seemed determined because he would later join the navy. He left navy after four years and became a medical supplier in San Francisco. As a young man who was interested in reading and exploring new things, he enquires from a man who drove a Ferrari, about the secret of his success. On realizing that the man was stockbroker who was earning $80,000 monthly, Gardner became interested in stockbroking and started applying for training programs. The American Dream entails pursuing things that will make someone happy (Junhong 18). Just like Dick was inspired by Henry, the educated boy in the streets, Gardner was also motivated by the man he met in a parking lot.Life becomes tougher for Gardener, and he starts doing an odd job like cleaning basements, roofing and cutting grass to feed his family. However, his life would become worse when he is jailed for being unable to pay a $1,200 parking violation fine. His wife left and later brought back their son, Chris Jr. In the boardinghouse where Gardner was living, the children were not allowed as such; he had to live with his son in cheap hotels. Occasionally. Gardner bathed his son in the sinks, and they relied on the goodwill of people to eat (Junhong 18). Gardner is a true reflection of the American culture of working hard and never giving up.
Gardner signs of getting breakthroughs in life begin when he is offered $1000 monthly for a trainee position in a brokerage firm. As a determined person, he does not waste this chance and works day and night. He had to make over 200 calls per day, and at the same time, he had to provide for his son. Gardner’s diligent eventually paid off when he passed his licensing exam, and became a full-time employee. At long last, Gardener is about to achieve his American Dream. Once he was confirmed as a full-time employee, he found and an apartment and daycare for his son. Finally, the homeless man had a home and topped his American Dream by opening Gardner, Rich $ Co.” becoming a CEO of a multi-million firm.
Inarguably, Dick and Gardner are real American underdogs who struggled to achieve their desires within the dictates of the American Dream. They both experienced street life challenges, but they chose to follow integrity and right values to pursue happiness. Dick, though not much educated he utilized every possible opportunity that deemed suitable to take him to the next level. He worked hard and finally managed to gain social status in society. Gardner on the other hand, believed in working diligently and honestly while taking care of his son. Despite many duties and responsibilities that Gardner had to do, he never failed to provide for his son even it meant relying on other people generosity.