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Literature Study GuidesRagtimePart 2 Chapter 18 Summary

Ragtime | Study Guide

E. L. Doctorow

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Ragtime | Part 2, Chapter 18 | Summary



As Tateh's sale of the silhouette books shows, America is interested in mass production. "The value of the duplicable event was everywhere perceived." One man cashing in on the trend is Henry Ford, the automobile maker. Ford, who the narrator states, "had long believed that most human beings were too dumb to make a good living," invents the assembly line, minimizing each worker's role in automobile production. Through the use of this technology, Ford begins producing 3,000 cars a month and selling them to the masses.


On a larger scale, Ford's assembly line highlights the change of technology and the value of controlled repetition. Ford capitalizes on "dumbing down" work so the product and the worker are equally replaceable. Should Ford's workers strike like the workers in Chapter 16, he could easily bring in more workers with minimal training or education to do the job. Ford created a system ensuring "not only that the parts of the finished product be interchangeable, but, that the men who build the products be themselves interchangeable." Man is becoming further enmeshed in technology and machinery, leaving the reader to question how this will affect humanity.

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