ragtime

 
This is a picture of Houdini just as Doctorow depicts him in Chapter 40—hanging over Broadway and 46th St., trying to ignore jeering “fans” and contemplating “the one genuine mystical experience of his life.” What was this specific experience? Write an essay analyzing Houdini’s career as Doctorow presents him. In your essay connect this epiphany with incidents in the beginning and middle of the novel. In addition you can, if you wish, also discuss more general developments in his life. At various times in the book Houdini is treated like a carnival freak, and later on his act gets so wild that people think he is in league with the Devil. We also know that he spent a lot of time exposing fake mystics and seers. Does the public perception of Houdini add to or diminish his reputation in your eyes? Was he correct about the mystical act?

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