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Literature Study GuidesRagtimePart 2 Chapter 15 Summary

Ragtime | Study Guide

E. L. Doctorow

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Ragtime | Part 2, Chapter 15 | Summary



The Little Boy fishes the silhouettes out of the trash and, finding one he admires of The Little Girl, hangs it on his wall. The Little Boy has grown up to be a somewhat strange and withdrawn child who loves discarded items and is obsessed with repetition. Mother, who cannot relate to the boy, often sends him into his Grandfather's room to listen to the old man tell stories from Ovid. He spends much time in front of the mirror, staring not at his reflection but of the doubling of his image; "He would gaze at himself until there were two selves facing one another, neither of which could claim to be the real one." When the weather turns cold, the family goes ice-skating but the boy spends all his time staring at the tracks on the ice.


Continuing the theme of change and what is left behind, The Little Boy has now become a collector of abandoned things; "In his mind the meaning of something was perceived through its neglect." The narrator highlights how The Little Boy is drawn to ancient tales (Ovid), lost languages (Latin), and time with the elderly (his Grandfather)—"the boy thought of his grandfather as a discarded treasure"—three things largely forgotten by mainstream society.

The divide between old and new generations is illustrated in the doubling of mirror scenes. In this chapter, it is The Little Boy inspecting his appearance in the mirror. Unlike Father who was shocked to see his physical change, the boy stands expecting transformation and enjoying the metaphysical experience of viewing his "disembodied" self. Clearly, The Little Boy recognizes how swiftly the world changes and how little time one has to make their mark. This sentiment is symbolized in the ice skating tracks. "The boy's eyes saw only the tracks made by the skaters, traces quickly erased of moments past, journeys taken."

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