The Truth Is Often A Great Lie

1829 Words8 Pages
Benjamin Franklin understands the fine line between the truth and lie, as he says, “Half the truth is often a great lie.” In the novel Ragtime, author E.L. Doctorow tells a story that blurs fact and fiction masterfully, often suspending the readers’ ability to discern historical narrative and fictionalized tales. Ragtime follows the lives of two fictional families in the Progressive Era; their roles in the novel develop in relation to their frequent interactions with real historical figures, in addition to their attendance at historical events. Doctorow uses fictional characters as in order to provide a comprehensive commentary on the social and economic issues plaguing the lives of common citizens the Progressive Era; the characters’ interactions with celebrities and dignitaries help to frame their lives within the context of an evolving nation. Perhaps no character represents the larger social issues of the Progressive Era more than Coalhouse Walker, a wealthy ragtime-pianist turned violent murdering-arsonist, whose actions create a comprehensive dialogue about how to best combat racism in pre-World War I America. During the climax of the novel, the police call upon Booker T. Washington to negotiate with Coalhouse Walker; Coalhouse, however, shoots down Washington’s best attempts. This essay explores the complex ideologies of both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, two opponents who are the most prominent African American leaders of the Progressive Era. Thus, this
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