Text from Ragtime
This novel written by the well-known novelist named E.L. Doctorow is about the race relations in turn-of-the-century America and reflects many of the changes the nation faced at that time.
E.L. Doctorow addresses several major social changes in turn-of-the-century America in his novel Ragtime. Ragtime is centered around several very different people, from rich to poor. He conveys the effects of these changes through the reactions of the characters. Some characters welcome and accept change, while other reject and struggle with it.
This novel is narrated in the third person and the tone of this extract is ironic, rhetorical.
The plot of this extract revolves around Coalhouse Walker, the black musician from Harlem. He has incredible import to the main themes of the novel. His characterization provides insight into race relations in (начало времени) turn-of-the-century America. Many characters react strongly to his mannerisms, as they believe his social position does not warrant such behavior. Because Coalhouse conducts himself with a sense of pride atypical of African Americans at this point in history, his expectations of how he should be treated repeatedly come into direct conflict with others' expectations of how African Americans should be treated. Coalhouse Walker, then, represents all African Americans who challenge the expectations many whites have of them.
In the exposition of this extract the author describes the scene when Coalhouse Walker arrived at Broadview Avenue – a district where rich and “white” people lived. Everything in that scene of arrival – beginning at his car “…a new model T-Ford”, his “gloved hand”, dressed “in the affection of wealth” and ending at the manner of his behavior (“…resolute…self-important in the way he asked…”) – shows us how earth-shatteringly and improperly the “black man” conducted himself. Because in turn-of-the-century America black people had no rights and even more so had no right to “…presume to come in the door” in spite of standing “…at the back door…” – such behave of a Negro got Mother's dander up. He came there to see a girl named Sarah. When she refused to meet Coalhose he left the house but not for a long time.
In the complication of this extract we found out that Coalhouse beginning with that Sunday appeared every weak “…always knocking at the back door…”. The Father and the Mother – the representatives of the Old America – were disposed against him firstly. But when he left a bouquet of expensive flowers which had to have cost him “a pretty penny” – the Mother decided to give him chance. This extract is full of irony tone which describes the negative attitude towards Black’s at that time – Father’s consideration “a nuisance”, prevailing word combination “colored man” or “Negro”, Father’s irritation and abrupt questions – we can feel the negative atmosphere of this Avenue, of this Old World.
In the climax of this story we see not a “Negro” – “White’s” slaves – but a cultured, self-conscious good musician playing the piano which “…had never made such sounds…” in spite of the fact “…this piano is badly in need of a tuning”. These words made Father’s face reddened – WHAT? A NEGRO DARED say such words? It was inconceivable for those period that such lowest society dared say such things. But manners of Coalhouse were full of elegancy – his way of pattering his lips with the napkin, placing the napkin beside his cup. The Ragtime – the music of nightlife New-York. This music in Coalhouse’s performance made all the Family gather in the room. In this extract we can see the personification of the end of emancipation from slavery – “…everyone applauded…” – the new time had come – the time of freedom and independence.
How people can change (“… Father noted that he suffered no embarrassment by being in the parlor… on the contrary, he acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world…”) and how this is all intertwined with the major events and people of this time in America is the main theme supplied by E.L. Doctorow.