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Battle of the Classics: Moby Dick vs. Ragged Dick

October 22, 2017

I just told my daughter that Ragged Dick was the little-known sequel to Moby Dick. Ragged Dick is on her school’s recommended classic literature reading list, and I guess she was too lazy to look it up herself, so I decided to see how far I could take my explanation.

In Ragged Dick, I said, the injured whale escapes to a nearby island where it befriends a lonely boy. The lonely boy helps nurture the whale back to health (renaming it Ragged somewhere in the 8th chapter, I think). Of course, some local whalers find out about Ragged and try to hunt it down, but the boy and whale work together and the whale escapes.

Nothing. My daughter seemed to think nothing that I said was implausible. I guess she hasn’t read enough classic literature.

Then I said that in order to raise money to keep the whale healthy, the boy staged a musical to save the whale and a bunch of celebrities like Mark Twain AND Edgar Allen Poe pitched in. That was my daughter’s breaking point.

Next time, I think my daughter will look up the book herself.  I hope my daughter doesn’t develop any trust issues with me over this.

Dysfunctional Literacy

Everybody knows what Moby Dick looks like, so... here's Ragged! (image via wikimedia) Everybody knows what Moby Dick looks like, so… here’s Ragged! (image via wikimedia)

It’s probably not fair to classic literature that word meanings change over time. Nobody laughed when Moby Dick by Herman Melville or Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger, Jr. came out.  I mean, I wasn’t around back then, but I’m pretty sure people didn’t laugh.

It’s not that people were more sophisticated in the 1800s.  It’s just that Dick was only a name back then.  I’m also pretty sure if “dick” had meant back then what it means right now, people would have laughed.   Nowadays, if you want your book to be taken seriously, you don’t put “Dick” in the title.

I’m not the kind of guy who compares Dicks very often, but I’ll do it for the sake of literature.  Moby Dick was published in 1851 and was supposedly a commercial failure when it came out.  Ragged…

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From → The Repeats

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