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Literary Precedents for Ragtime

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Literary Precedents

Doctorow has acknowledged his debt to Michael Kohlhaas, an eighteenth-century novella by the German author Heinrich Von Kleist. The hero of Kleist's story, itself based on a historical chronicle, is a man determined to obtain justice from a corrupt world.

This gave Doctorow the idea for Coalhouse Walker and his strong protest against the racial injustice of American society. Several details of plot and character in Doctorow's novel parallel the story by Heinrich Von Kleist.

The social realism of Ragtime and its mixture of history and fiction also owe much to the American tradition of John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos. Doctorow's sympathy for the victims of social and economic injustice is as strong as Steinbeck's, and Ragtime often approaches the documentary realism of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Doctorow's blend of history and fiction is more ingenious, but his cinematic method is indebted to the newsreel technique...

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This section contains 291 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Ragtime Study Guide
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Ragtime from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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