Sun, 20 Oct 1996 13:36:19 -0400
Despite the belief that Horatio Alger's fiction represents the American
gospel to wealth through hard work, none of his characters actually work to
get rich. Dick is rewarded by a rich man for saving his daughter's life and
through the latter's charity is able to rise from rags to riches.
Although Twain makes no overt references to Alger, he was certainly familiar
with his work. Twain engages the Alger myth in his novel the "Gilded Age."
Those characters who speculate wildly and dream of great riches end up with
nothing; but those who work hard in pursuit of their dreams end up like
Philip Sterling, someone who has put great energy and industriousness into
rising from rags to riches. So Twain was much more enamoured of the Andrew
Carnegie version of rags to riches than he was of the Alger myth of rags to
charity to riches.