Starting out with reading Horatio Alger’s Wikipedia page was a good idea because it gave me a bit of insight as to what trend I may expect. For the closer analysis, I focused on the story Dan The Newsboy. I was left with this word cloud when I omitted “said”, “Dan”, and “asked”.
I wasn’t sure why Mother had such a huge part in the story, but I easily recognized the terms “Money”, “little”, “boy”, and “good” as having to do with Alger’s obsession with writing about young men who go from rags to riches. At the top of the cloud, I noticed that “girl” was incredibly small, which could possibly indicate a lack of love interest for the main character, or at the very least it indicates the lack of attention given towards girls vs boys within his story.
[Above: Brown: Boy, Blue: Sir, Teal: Mr]
Finding the relationships between Mr, Sir, and boy did NOT yield the results I thought they would, however. Although there is a slight correlation between the terms, I couldn’t a solid enough pattern within this story. However, when I expanded the corpus to the class folder of texts, the results fell more in line with what I had expected.
Just as I had suspected, several key terms that were prevalent in Dan The Newsboy, were also present in the word cloud for the larger corpus. From this discovery alone, the general plot of his stories can be inferred to fall in line with the narrative of young boys going from rags to riches. The word “Mother” which struck me as odd in the first cloud fell out and become a minor point when compared to the work as a whole. Instead, the link between Mr/Man and boy became more concrete and in line with my hypothesis of Alger using the stories as a vehicle for his own desire to interact and have control over the young boys in the story. When I looked at a more detailed line graph of Mr and Boy, the trend was much more apparent than it had been in the initial analysis.
Although the two do not match up exactly, there is a much more discernable pattern and correlation between the two words in the expanded corpus. Through distant reading, the analysis of Alger’s life and the way his work is characterized could easily be supported without needing to go through and read every single novel that he’s put out. The emphasis on the word money as well as his emphasis on the word “good” lend themselves to the bigger picture of his narratives. I don’t doubt that close reading could yield similar results, but the time invested would have been significantly greater.