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    Sexual Relationships in Ragtime

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    In the novel Ragtime there are many relationships. There are relationships between parents, and children, husband and wife, friendship, and lovers. Many of these relationships in Ragtime are sexual relationships. In Ragtime there is both intense, and subtle sexual relationships. A clear reason for these relationships is the interesting effects of them that make the novel, and characters so interesting, as well as a further more significant meaning for them. There are two main relationships within Ragtime that sexual activity takes place.

    These relationships are between Father and Mother, and Younger Brother and Evelyn Nesbit. The sexual activity between Father and Mother is used to describe their relationship, and the sexual activity by Younger Brother is used as a substitute for his violence, and force. The sexual activity that is greatest related to the theme happens in the relationship between Father and Mother. While these scenes between Mother, and Father certainly suggest sexual relations, they are certainly not as intensified as the passionate scenes between other characters such as Younger Brother and, Evelyn.

    After Mother, and Father’s relationship has been examined, one can see that the relationship between them is one that appears to be held together totally by sexual desire. The first mentioning of this is at the beginning of the novel. The author writes, “On Sunday afternoon, after dinner, Father and Mother went upstairs and closed the bedroom door”(p 4). Mother, and Father’s marriage is a happy one as long as they carry on to have a good, healthy physical relationship.

    Although in the beginning of Ragtime Mother and Father’s relationship was good, and healthy, by the end of Ragtime Mother had lost all feelings of love for Father, and Father I feel knew so. Mother’s despite for Father is shown when he tells her that he will be taking their son to the baseball game on the following day. Doctorow writes, “she was checked in her response, which was to condemn him for an idiot, and when he left the room she could only wonder that she had had that thought in the first place, so separated from any feeling of love”(p 190).

    Mother clearly has lost all her love for Father. The reason for this is defined in the next quotation when Father comes back from his journey to the Artic. Doctorow writes, “At night in bed Mother held him and tried to warm the small of his back, curled him into her as she lay against his back cradling his strange coldness. It was apparent to them both that this time he’d stayed away too long”(p 91-92). Mother and Father’s sexual encounters are comparable representation of their all-around relationship.

    When sex is good, their relationship is good; when sex is bad, their relationship is bad. This comparison is shown before Father leaves for his journey. Doctorow writes, “He was solemn and attentive as befitted the occasion. Mother shut her eyes and held her hands over her ears. Sweat from Father’s chin fell on her breasts”(p 10-11). Just as their sex is conventional, their relationship is, at this time, conventional. The clearest case of a violent sexual act is when Younger Brother falls out of the closet while watching Emma Goldman give Evelyn Nesbit a massage.

    He was clutching in his hands, as if trying to choke it, a rampant penis which, scornful of his intentions, whipped him about the floor, launching to his cries of ecstasy or despair, great filamented spurts of jism that traced the air like bullets and then settled slowly over Evelyn in her bed like falling ticker tape”(Doctorow pg. 54). In this very detailed scene, the author displays Younger Brother’s juvenile, almost adolescent side, by displaying his inadequacy to compose his sexual urges, and sexual behaviors.

    It is almost as if he had discovered a recent toy that did not want to be awakened from deep down inside of him. Now that he has discovered it, he must appease it. Once he fails to appease it, violence, and fury takes over him, and he joins Coalhouse Walker’s gang. This relationship between sex and violence is first referred to in the beginning of Ragtime. The author writes, “Across America sex and death were barely distinguishable”(p 4). When he pleasures his bodily appetite, he has power over his life.

    As soon as he is cannot appease his sexual desires, he loses control and starts making bombs. He restores his sex drive with violence, and rage. In Ragtime the relationships I have discussed between Mother, and Father, and Younger brother, and Evelyn are both quite different as you can see. Both these relationships are used in Ragtime for different reasons. As one can see these relationships in Ragtime were weak ones. By the end of the novel Mother is married to Tateh, and has found real love. I think Mother’s loss of love for Father was due to him always putting his work, and journeys first.

    Father in the end of the novel is dead due to his obsession with his work. Younger Brother is also dead due to his violence, which was stemmed from Evelyn and his relationship that had gone bad, and Evelyn is a washed-up has been who had her fifteen minutes of fame. I feel that both these relationships are important factors in Ragtime in making the characters the people that they are in the beginning of novel as well as the people they become, or the end results for these characters by the end of novel.

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    Sexual Relationships in Ragtime. (2018, Mar 03). Retrieved from

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