Study Guide

J.P. Morgan & Henry Ford in Ragtime

J.P. Morgan & Henry Ford

We're lumping these two Richie Richs together because in Ragtime they go together like salt and pepper… or maybe something fancier, like beluga caviar and truffle oil? Gucci and Dom Perignon? Money and even more money?

Morgan and Ford are two of the richest men in America, and they symbolize wealth and power. Though they're two very different men, both believe in reincarnation. Aww, they have something in common. They're destined to become besties.

Morgan specifically believes that they are part of a class of men born into every era to run the world, while Ford's beliefs are more basic. When they meet for lunch, Ford tells Morgan he shouldn't have spent so much money on stuff and that he learned about reincarnation from a little book that cost him "just twenty-five cents" (20.14).

Their interest in reincarnation underscores how death-obsessed they are. Their empires and unimaginable riches can't hold off the inevitable bucket-kicking. Morgan goes to Egypt in order to (seriously) contemplate being buried inside a pyramid. Ford conceives his assembly line because he's spent so much time studying the workings of slaughterhouses. Talk about morbidity.

Both of these characters existed in real life. Henry Ford was the notoriously bigoted car magnate, and J.P. Morgan was a famous financier, best known today as the J.P. Morgan in J.P. Morgan & Co.