Ragtime | Study Guide

E. L. Doctorow

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Ragtime | Characters

Character Description
Father Father is the embodiment of the traditional "old world" America, resistant to social and technological changes. Read More
Coalhouse Coalhouse Walker, Jr. is a black ragtime pianist who wages war on the New Rochelle fire department after a racist attack against him. Read More
Mother Mother is a wealthy white woman stifled by social expectations and a boring, traditional marriage. Read More
Younger Brother Younger Brother uses his bomb-making abilities to support Coalhouse and later the Mexican revolutionaries in hopes of bringing meaning to his life. Read More
Tateh Tateh is a Jewish immigrant who embraces the American dream and transforms himself into a successful film director. Read More
Evelyn Evelyn Nesbitt is a model who uses her beauty and sexuality to get what she wants from men. Read More
Alexander Berkman Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman's revolutionary lover, is badly beaten during a botched political assassination and sent to prison for 30 years.
Brigit Brigit is the housemaid who becomes apathetic after Mother takes in Sarah and her baby.
Chief Conklin Chief Conklin is the racist leader of the volunteer firemen who abuse Coalhouse and trash his car. Coalhouse demands Conklin be handed over to him as punishment for his crimes.
Theodore Dreiser Theodore Dreiser is the novelist who struggles to find "proper alignment" for his writing desk.
The Duke Archduke Franz Ferdinand is the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne whose assassination ushers in World War I.
The Esquimos The Esquimos act as Peary's guides during his Arctic Exploration; Peary views them as savages or animals, appropriates their culture, and excludes them from credit for discovering the North Pole.
Ettor Ettor is one of the workers who organize the Lawrence textile mill strike.
Evelyn's mother Evelyn's mother is a greedy woman who wants Evelyn to be married to a wealthy man but shows little concern for Evelyn's well being.
Faust Charles Victor Faust is the mentally handicapped mascot of the New York Giants.
Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish is a wealthy woman who hires novelty acts like Houdini and circus freaks to entertain her rich party guests.
Henry Ford Henry Ford is the famous businessman who invented the Model T and the assembly line.
Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud is a famous Czech psychoanalyst; in the novel he visits New York before his sex theories are published.
Giovanettia Giovanettia is one of the workers who organize the Lawrence textile mill strike.
Emma Goldman Emma Goldman is an outspoken anarchist frequently arrested for conspiracy.
Grandfather Grandfather is Mother's aging father; he is losing his grip on reality and often speaks in Latin and tells stories from Ovid.
Mathew Henson Mathew Henson is Peary's black expedition assistant. Although Henson does almost all the work during their North Pole trek, Peary receives sole credit.
Houdini Harry Houdini is the famous illusionist known for his near-death escapes.
Jung Carl Jung is a devotee of Freud's work; in the novel he visits Coney Island with Freud.
Little Boy The Little Boy is the peculiar son of Father and Mother; he is fascinated by repetition.
Little Girl The Little Girl is Tateh's young daughter; her stoic beauty is her most valuable asset.
Mameh Mameh is an immigrant woman whose family abandons her after she allows herself to be raped by her boss for money.
Charles McKim Charles McKim is Stanford White's business partner and fellow architect.
J.P. Morgan J.P Morgan is a business tycoon and billionaire who becomes obsessed with reincarnation and ancient Egypt.
Peary Commander Peary leads an expedition to discover the North Pole; he accomplishes his goal through cultural appropriation and exploiting his team.
Ben Reitman Ben Reitman is Emma Goldman's roommate and manager who is tarred and feathered in San Diego.
Jacob Riis Jacob Riis is the newspaper reporter who tries to shed light on immigrants' terrible living conditions in New York.
Sarah Sarah is Coalhouse's fiancée and the woman who buries her newborn baby in Mother's garden. She is accidentally killed by Secret Service agents who think she is trying to assassinate the president.
Sarah's son Sarah's son is the child Mother raises and cares for after Sarah's death.
James Sherman James Sherman is the vice president whom Sarah mistakes for the president when she appeals to him on Coalhouse's behalf.
Countess Sophie Countess Sophie is the Duke's wife.
Thaw Harry K. Thaw is the crazed millionaire who kills Stanford White in a jealous rage after learning White raped Evelyn when she was 15.
Lavinia Thumb Lavinia Thumb is a famous "circus midget" and the widowed wife of Tom Thumb.
Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington is the famed African American orator who preached black Americans should "earn" equality from their white neighbors. In the novel, Washington tries to negotiate with Coalhouse to turn himself in.
Cecelia Weiss Cecelia Weiss is Houdini's beloved mother.
Stanford White Stanford White is the famed architect who raped Evelyn and is later killed by her jealous husband.
Charles S. Whitman Charles S. Whitman is the city district attorney who negotiates with Coalhouse in Morgan's gallery.
Emiliano Zapata Emiliano Zapata is the Mexican revolutionary with whom Younger Brother joins forces at the end of the novel.
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