Literature Study GuidesRagtimePart 3 Chapter 32 Summary

Ragtime | Study Guide

E. L. Doctorow

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Course Hero. "Ragtime Study Guide." March 13, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ragtime/.

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Course Hero, "Ragtime Study Guide," March 13, 2017, accessed December 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ragtime/.

Ragtime | Part 3, Chapter 32 | Summary

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Summary

Since his argument with Father, Younger Brother had become more and more distant from the family. After the first firehouse attack, he goes to the funeral parlor where Sarah had been buried and asked politely to speak to Coalhouse (who is, of course, in hiding). He promises to return each day for as long as it takes Coalhouse to know he could be trusted. On the fourth night, a youth leads him to Coalhouse's hideaway in Harlem. Younger Brother's eloquence disappears when he finds himself face-to-face with Coalhouse again, and he simply sputters, "I can make bombs. I know how to blow things up." Coalhouse accepts Younger Brother's offer to join the gang. The young men in Coalhouse's gang revere and idolize him, calling the entire group of themselves "Coalhouse."

Analysis

Younger Brother's involvement in Coalhouse's violence is especially poignant as WWI approaches. Younger Brother is a disillusioned youth, depressed and idealistic. He wants to be part of something larger than himself. "He had composed an impassioned statement about justice, civilization, and the right of every human being to a dignified life." Like Coalhouse himself, Younger Brother has channeled his emotions into violence, and in his plea to join the gang simply says, "I can make bombs. I know how to blow things up." When the Great War arrives soon after, millions of young men are seized with the same desire to belong to a greater cause. Although Younger Brother's motivations aren't patriotic (dramatically ironic given that he steals his supplies from a patriotic factory), the end result is the same: death. By the end of the chapter, the young gang members all refer to themselves as "Coalhouse," which highlights the universality of his cause. They are fighting for justice and equality for all black men, not just for Coalhouse and his car.

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