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Week of 12/15-12/19 Ragtime (enotes)

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Week of 12/15-12/19 Ragtime (enotes)

Post  Admin on December 16th 2008, 10:55 am

View opening scenes in Ragtime videos. Compare and contrast film and musical.
HMWK: READ to end of Part I for Thursday


Style
Point of View
The point of view of this novel is uncertain. The prevailing consciousness is certainly that of the Little Boy—his personality is explained in detail, and much of the information that is given could have reached him, either from direct experience or through secondary sources, such as his uncle's diaries or newspaper clippings.
When the narrative places itself in time as speaking "nearly fifty years after Houdini's death," it leaves open the possibility that the grown-up boy is telling the story (Houdini died in 1926, nearly fifty years before the book was published). On the other hand, there are many details here that the Little Boy really could not know, such as the intimate thoughts of prominent figures like J. Pierpont Morgan and Archduke FranzFerdinand.
Throughout the book the narrator speaks as an unidentified "we," presumably representing America. The narrator is given a distinct persona in the last chapter, when it speaks in the first person: "Poor Father, I see his final exploration." Contradictions abound, but most of the evidence indicates that, if the narrator is a particular person (as opposed to the omniscient narrator, who tells the story but is not part of it), it is probably the Little Boy.

Zeitgeist ("Spirit of the Time")
More important to the success of this novel than any particular characters or plotlines is the way that it creates a convincing sense of what life was like in America in the first years of the twentieth century. Although no novel or historical work could ever give readers the experience of exactly what it was like then, Ragtime
struggles to make clear what the issues of social concern were and who the celebrities were, in order to give the flavor of the time. The structure of the book, with quick scenes and short chapters covering a wide variety of people and situations, helps readers to feel the new century's spirit of motion and confusion. One of the
most irrelevant, yet symbolic events in the book involves novelist Theodore Dreiser, who appears in one paragraph at the end of Chapter 4 and then never again: "One day he decides his chair was facing the wrong direction. He gets up to move it, then moves it again, then again. Throughout the night Dreiser turned his chair
in circles seeking the proper alignment." The uneven motion of the book and its characters has been compared to this exasperated circling. Each of the real-life people chosen to represent this time period—Harry Houdini, Harry K. Thaw, Sigmund Freud, Booker T. Washington, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, and the rest—adds a
slightly different, unique color to the overall picture, with no single story being more important than the overall effect.

Irony
This novel has a strong flair for irony, setting readers up to expect one thing but then leading to developments that, while logical, are quite different than expected. Usually, these reversals seem to deflate pomposity.
Houdini, with the best intentions toward all humanity, offers money to subway workers who escaped a catastrophe, introducing himself as an "escapologist," and he is lifted off his feet and thrown out of the hospital. Morgan assembles America's wealthiest men to trade wisdom, and he finds them concerned with digestion, dozing off and muttering inanities: "Without exception the dozen most powerful men in America
looked like horse's asses," he concludes. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose death triggered the global catastrophe of World War I, is so befuddled by his formal, ceremonious meeting with Houdini that he thinks the airplane Houdini brings with him is his own invention. After a lifetime of actions against the government, the event that leads to Emma Goldman's deportation is her commenting about the Coalhouse Walker affair. J.P. Morgan, seeking eternal knowledge in the pyramid, instead finds bedbugs and catches the cold that kills him. Any good novel will have a number of surprises, in order to avoid being predictable, but Ragtime consistently uses reversal of expectation to point out the weakness of the old ruling order, although the book's ironic tone continually pretends to be upholding the old notions.
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Jeffrey

Post  Admin on December 16th 2008, 1:53 pm

The Text: A wide description of the time period describes important events and figures of the time. “Immigrants” and “Negros” are dismissed. The story shifts to one family’s encounter with Houdini.
The Film: The non-Ragtime music and dance ends quickly as the Ragtime beat picks up and we are introduced to important events through a news reel: Booker T. Washington, a new statue, Houdini. We are shown a grand party and an immediate conflict. White’s story is focused on.
The Play: The representation of the three groups Americans, Negros, and Immigrants. Each group gets a portion of the song. Historical figures are introduced: Booker T. Washington, Houdini, Goldman. However, the play does not introduce the family’s encounter with Houdini. White’s murder is skimmed over.
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Comparisons

Post  hayleydayis on December 16th 2008, 1:55 pm

In the book Ragtime, Source A, Chapter One focused mainly on Father, Mother, Mother's Younger Brother, the son, and several other characters such as Harry Houdini and Evelyn Nesbit. It spends a lot of time talking about how Stanford White was murdered, how Harry Houdini could escape anything, and how Father was going to the Pole on an expedition. There was no introduction of Coalhouse or Sarah or their child. Only in Chapter Two were Tateh, his wife, and the Little Girl introduced. However in the film version, Source B, almost everyone is introduced immediately, including Sarah and Coalhouse's baby. In this movie version, there is no singing or dancing, and the audience has to figure out who everyone is virtually on their own. In the second movie version of Ragtime, Source C, everyone comes right out and introduces themselves in the opening scene. The different characters state their names and how they are connected to the time period that the story takes place in. In this version, there is singing and dancing and a lot of the action on stage is significant of the emotions that were actually apparent in society in that time period--the part where the three groups become mixed up and then split themselves up again is extremely interesting for the viewer to watch.
Therefore, the three different mediums--play, movie, and novel--portray Ragtime uniquely. Each one takes different times to introduce the different characters and give historical overview.

--Hayley Van Dusen
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Ragtime Intros

Post  Allie5491 on December 16th 2008, 1:55 pm

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The Film: I really liked the opening of the film because it contrasted the glamorous lives and classical music of the rich white people with the harder lives and ragtime music of the black community. It really helped to set up the time period of the movie and to foreshadow the tension between races that is important later on. Coalhouse is introduced almost right away, as is the story of Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White.

Our play: Our play also opened in a way which introduced the social and racial distinctions of the time period. The different groups of rich whites, blacks and immigrants demonstrated the racial tension of the time in a way that was very artful and ascetically pleasing. The play uses the opening song to introduce every character while explaining plot lines such as Stanford White’s murder.

The Book: The book also sets up the time period well, but in a very different way. Doctorow describes the blindness of the white upper class with lines like “there were no immigrants, there were no negroes” which are even used in the play. While the play and movie introduce Coalhouse right away, Doctorow does not introduce him until later on in the novel.

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Re: Week of 12/15-12/19 Ragtime (enotes)

Post  Atlantisbase on December 16th 2008, 1:57 pm

The movie presents the time period in what appears to be a much more authentic and yet presents something which is typical of Hollywood exaggeration. It presents the big events of the turn of the century by telling them not from the point of view of a person looking back using an omnipotent speaker but by playing out the events and even adding parts that are not told in the book. It sets the early focus on those larger societal events to get them out of the way and then jumps right into the middle of the first part of the book skipping over much of the narration a portion of which is told in the form of people watching a silent movie. They stress the White – Thaw story only touching briefly on Houdini who in the book gets quite a bit of time.
The musical compared to the book is much closer to the actual text though it puts some of it into song.
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Re: Week of 12/15-12/19 Ragtime (enotes)

Post  Meghan43 on December 16th 2008, 1:57 pm

In the text for Ragtime we do not get too much of a sense of all the groups. The white Americans, the African-Americans, and the immigrants are all represented right away in the SOTA musical version. The film is a tad bit scattered and does not stay on the introductory scene as long as both the play and the novel do. The distinction between the groups is very subtle in the novel as the narrator tells the reader of the time period. It isn’t a big deal until we begin to see lines like “There were no immigrants” and such to depict the social distinctions.

In representing the time period, I believe all were extremely helpful. The novel describes for us everything that is happening at the time. It gives us perfect information. The film includes the music of the time period, which is very defining and also the black-and-white films that present to us the old fashioned society. The musical version of Ragtime also includes the musical genre of that time. It’s lyrics have exact lines from the novel which is really helpful.
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Re: Week of 12/15-12/19 Ragtime (enotes)

Post  hdavis on December 16th 2008, 1:58 pm

Doctorow's novel:
The intro of the novel introduces some of the main characters of the story. It introduces some of the issues presented in the novel with lines like "There were no Negroes. There were no immigrants." It gives a little bit of background on some of the characters, such as the part about Father's firework company, his role in the Peary Expedition, and the list of Houdini's famous escapes.

The Movie:
The movie begins much differently. It launches almost immediately into the segment where Mother finds the Negro baby. However, in the book, this does not happen until later in the story, after Father has left. There is also no mention of the Peary Expedition. It does introduce the issue of race, when Father tells Mother not to bring the Negro baby into their house, as if the child is dirty or unworthy. Harry Houdini is not introduces

The Musical:
The musical began with a slideshow of historical photos from the time, to set the stage. It adds some of Doctorow's original lines into the play, and also introduces the issue separate classes of whites, black and immigrants. The characters in the musical are introduced indvidually, with the characters stepping out of the chorus and speaking about themselves in the third person, keeping with Doctorow's original narration style.
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Comparing the book, movie and musical of Ragtime

Post  cWest on December 16th 2008, 1:58 pm

The beginnings of these three interpretations of Ragtime differ in several ways. The beginning of the book mainly tries to establish a setting and the tone of the book. Though it does introduce several characters, it leaves out Coalhouse and the people from Harlem, who the movie and the musical introduce very quickly.
(my computer took a long time to load so I couldn't finish)

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ragtime comparisions

Post  mgpicc on December 16th 2008, 1:58 pm

There are three versions of the RAGTIME story. Doctrow's novel, the movie, and the musical. Each version starts of differently. In the novel Doctrow introduces to the reader everything that is happening in the turn of the century. After doctrow is done explaining the big headlines, the story goes to a home that is inturupted by the presence of Houdini.
In the movie there is also an introduction of the major stories, but when it starts thaw confronts White with his statue and relation with Ms. Nesbit. Then the audience meets the family, but Houdini doesn't arrive, instead a baby is found in the garden.
The play is the better adapatation of the novel compared to the movie. The famous people are introduced and there is actual dialoge taken from the book. The play also establishes the feel that Doctrow sets. Especially when there are the three groups of the upper class whites, blacks, and immigrants. When the upper class whites sing about there being " no negroes, no immigrants," it is explained how they felt.The play did a good job of illustrating this because the whites,blacks, and immigrants are standing in seperate groups on the stage, but each group is given a color. The upper class whites have white. The blacks have red and the immigrants have blue. All the colors together make up the American flag which gives it a nice touch.
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Film v. Musical (Pendle)

Post  pfmh on December 16th 2008, 1:58 pm

The text of the actual book of Ragtime starts off with a lot of imagery to explain the tone and mood of the times. This is translated into a visual representation particularly in the musical version of the story, which starts off with an opening number that describes the several different "groups" in Ragtime: the upper-class whites of New Rochelle, the lower-class blacks of Harlem, and the lower-class immigrants just arriving to New York. This song really shows the audience that there is a great seperation of classes and races, and also seems to hint to the audience that there will be a clashing of these races soon to come.
The film version of Ragtime, the opening is of a film from the period being shown at a party. After the film is shown, several women, dressed scantilly for the time period, burst out of a door, and proceed to flirt with all the men in the room. This opening scene doesn't show anything really of the class or race divide, but does show the relationship between men and young women of the time period, and the idea of what being sexy is. When the dinner party is interrupted by an angry reporter, the movie-watchers know that trouble is "afoot". (NOT DONE).

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Comparisons of RAGTIME

Post  pbr on December 16th 2008, 1:59 pm

In the versions of RAGTIME that we viewed or read, the beginnings were significantly different. Although they were based on the same plot, they began very differently from one another. In the original text version that Doctorow wrote himself, the story begins by introducing the time period. It tells of the going-ons and and shows the atmosphere of the times. It seems as if Doctorow is more concerned with getting the reader accustomed to the feel of the century rather than jumping straight into the story from the very beginning. The novel does not introduce all of the major stories and plot elements at the very beginning, but waits for them to come as they pertain to the story as a whole. It goes on for a number of pages and finally brings the story in with Houdini coming to the house. In the movie, the beginning is different. It shows Harry K Thaw confronting White and slides of newsbits from the time period. It tries to help the audience get the feel of the time period, but it does not take its time and jumps right into the story. From the very begininning you are introduced to Colehouse and the baby, who are not introduced in the novel version until a while through the book. In the opening of the musical, it begins with introducing the three groups: New Rochelle, the Negros, and the Immigrants. THen the major characters are introduced and the story begins. Compared to the original text, the begininnings of the musical and the film are rather different and are not close to each other at all.


Last edited by pbr on December 17th 2008, 1:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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reply

Post  Amelia F. on December 16th 2008, 1:59 pm

Doctorow begins Ragtime with a description of the house, the town, and the people who are (and aren’t) living there. The musical starts in a similar way, expect we are quickly introduced to the other people in the town, not just the whites. Although he isn’t specifically pointed out, we meet Coalhouse, the man playing the piano. In the book, he is barely mentioned in the first part. In the movie, the history is told by the picture show, not a person or narrator.
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Candice Response

Post  candice R on December 17th 2008, 12:58 pm

Compare and Contrast
Ragtime

From the creation of E. L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime” sprung many variations of the original text; including film, and the theatre. Although these different variations share the same name and ideas, there are significant differences amongst them. For example, in Doctorow’s original book version, he makes it a point to set the story up by going into precise detail about the time period surrounding the book. Also he takes his time easing into the first plot line of the upper middle class white family. However, in the film adaptation it

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Re: Week of 12/15-12/19 Ragtime (enotes)

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