Horatio Alger, pictured at left, is an American Institution, the author of many novels, all with the same uplifting plot: poor boy makes good, rags to riches, pluck and luck, it's dogged as does it. If you read them at a rate of about one every 10 years they can be fun.
Ten years has rolled around since I read Struggling Upward, so I was comfortable reading Mark, the Match Boy (1869), which is another of the 100 Great American Novels You've (Probably) Never Read.
The plot is easy to grasp. The scene is New York City in the middle of the 19th century. A man from Milwaukee mentions to Richard (whose adventures were chronicled in Ragged Dick) that he disowned his daughter a dozen or so years before for marrying a man of whom he disapproved and now he regrets it. He has learned that his daughter is dead and he wants to find his grandson. Richard and a friend agree to try to find the lad.
They find him. This is not a spoiler because in Horatio Alger no well-meaning wish goes unfulfilled, no deserving lad goes unrewarded, and no hero fails to achieve his goal. The lad had changed his name (for reasons that I couldn't fathom, but what the heck) so Richard doesn't recognize that the hungry and ailing young man whom he takes in and supports and for whom he finds a good job turns out to be . . . yup, Mark, the Match Boy.
Horatio Alger books are more interesting to me for the sociology they convey than the stories, as much fun as a good rags to riches story can be. Like the religious romances of Grace Livingston Seagull (er, Hill), they tell us about what the lower middle class aspired to in those days at the end of the 19th century. On the whole, judging from Alger and Hill, it was a decent if modest prosperity, respect from the community, and a feeling of deserved self worth. Who could argue with that?