Literature Study GuidesRagtimePart 2 Chapter 20 Summary

Ragtime | Study Guide

E. L. Doctorow

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Course Hero. (2017, March 13). Ragtime Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ragtime/

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Course Hero. "Ragtime Study Guide." March 13, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ragtime/.

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Course Hero, "Ragtime Study Guide," March 13, 2017, accessed July 17, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ragtime/.

Ragtime | Part 2, Chapter 20 | Summary

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Summary

Desperate to connect with Henry Ford about his theories of reincarnation, Morgan invites the businessman for lunch. It proceeds somewhat awkwardly with few words being spoken. After the meal, Morgan ushers Ford into his lavish private study where he reveals not only his plan to travel to Egypt to further research reincarnation, but also a sarcophagus that he removed from Egypt without the government's knowledge. Ford announces, "Reincarnation is the only belief I hold"—yet he doesn't see why Morgan spends millions of dollars trying to understand reincarnation when Ford learned all about it by reading a 25-cent book. Ford declines Morgan's invitation to join him in Egypt and promises to lend him the book.

Analysis

Morgan seems to find reassurance in the repetitiveness of reincarnation, the idea that his life and legacy won't simply end at his death. Believing in reincarnation also gives meaning to Morgan's life. He is not simply a successful businessman; he is layers of successful histories. By believing he is the reincarnated soul of an ancient pharaoh, for example, Morgan stakes claim on the pharaoh's success. While Ford and Houdini attempt to create a legacy through physical means, Morgan's struggle is intellectual. Morgan's intellectual struggle contrasts with Ford's unrefined way of speaking. Ford not only declines Morgan's offer to journey to Egypt, but he also pokes fun at the fortune Morgan has spent trying to understand something Ford learned for just 25 cents. The two men may be "transcendentally gifted," but they couldn't be more different.

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