Literature Study GuidesRagtimePart 1 Chapter 11 Summary

Ragtime | Study Guide

E. L. Doctorow

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Ragtime | Part 1, Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

Evelyn begins her testimony in her husband's court case. She testifies beautifully in the widely reported trial, propelling her celebrity and earning a reputation as "the first sex goddess in American history." The first trial ends in a hung jury, forcing Evelyn to testify again. The second trial ends with Thaw being sent to a mental institution. Evelyn immediately files for divorce, expecting to receive at least $1 million as a settlement, but private detectives reveal she has been having an affair with Younger Brother so she is given only $25,000. Depressed, Evelyn spends her money flippantly making large donations to radical organizations, including Goldman's anarchist magazine, Mother Earth. She misses her lover Stanford White terribly, as well as Tateh and The Little Girl, depressingly realizing, "she ha[s] no joy."

Analysis

Evelyn enters a romantic relationship with Younger Brother—even though he's been more or less stalking her—because she "could not resist someone who was so strongly attracted to her." Evelyn clearly desires notoriety, whether in the press or with her lovers. Despite Younger Brother's gentle nature and seemingly genuine love for her, Evelyn is using him to prop up her deflated ego after the financially disastrous divorce settlement. She plans to end things with him because, "she wanted someone who would treat her badly and whom she could treat badly." This explains her strange longing to be with Stanford White, the man who raped her as a teenager, further complicating her psychology. Evelyn also desires to maintain a relationship with Emma Goldman, despite Goldman's condescension. "You will be left with a finite amount of money that you will spend and waste until you are as poor as when you started," Goldman writes. Goldman's assessment of Evelyn's wealth proves correct when Evelyn flits away the little settlement she was rewarded. She had hoped money would bring her happiness, but she remains depressed and lonely.

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