Rags to riches
Rags to riches refers to any situation in which a person rises from poverty to wealth, and in some cases from absolute obscurity to heights of fame—sometimes instantly. This is a common archetype in literature and popular culture (for example, the writings of Horatio Alger, Jr.).
The concept of "Rags to riches" has been criticised by social reformers, revolutionaries, essayists and statisticians, who argue that only a handful of exceptionally capable and/or mainly lucky persons are actually able to travel the "rags to riches" road, being the great publicity given to such cases causes a natural Survivorship bias illusion, which help keep the masses of the working class and the working poor in line, preventing them from agitating for an overall collective change in the direction of social equality.
Pre-20th-century fictional examples
- Fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Aladdin.
- The Dickensian novel Oliver Twist, whose protagonist rises from a workhouse to child labour to a gang of pickpockets to being adopted by a wealthy family.
- The Arthurian story of Sir Gareth, who rises from a lowly kitchen boy to a prominent Knight of the Round Table.
- The Roman Emperor Diocletian, born in poverty and whose father was a former slave (by some sources, the emperor himself was born in slavery).
- Genghis Khan, who was homeless with just his mother and his siblings. He went on to create the largest land empire in history (however, Genghis was the son of a Mongol chieftain).
- Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, born in poverty, founded the Medici bank, the Medici were a common family.
- Pope Leo III was of commoner origin and attained the high position in spite of violent opposition from the nobility, who considered the papacy as their preserve.
- Pope Gregory VII, Hildebrand, was a commoner, perhaps the son of a blacksmith. His bad reputation was partially due to horror at his high social mobility.
- Chandragupta Maurya of India, who from a humble beginning founded the Maurya Empire.
- Mahmud of Ghazni, son of a Turkic slave, who founded the Ghaznavid Empire.
- Baibars, a slave who rose to become the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt through his military prowess.
- China's Emperor Gaozu of Han and Hongwu Emperor who were both born into peasant families, but eventually founded two of the nation's most illustrious imperial dynasties.
- Emperor Xuan of Han brought up a commoner despite royal blood, later rose to become a capable ruler.
- Emperor Guangwu of Han lived life as a peasant at one point in his life despite being a distant royal. He eventually restored the Han dynasty.
- Nader Shah, founder of the Afsharid dynasty, was the orphaned son of a goat-herder who established the most powerful empire in modern Persian history.
- Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous example in late medieval times, helped unify pre-modern Japan.
- Wei Zhongxian of Ming Dynasty China, a gambler who castrated himself and entered the Imperial Palace where he ended enormous power under the reign of the Tianqi Emperor. He was eventually banished by the Chongzhen Emperor.
Thousands of people have risen from poverty to riches; some are:
- Roman Abramovich
- Sheldon Adelson
- Dhirubhai Ambani
- Justin Bieber
- Richard Branson
- Ursula Burns (Ceo of Fortune 500 company)
- Andrew Carnegie (Industrialist)
- Jim Carrey (Actor)
- Sean Connery (rags: Royal Navy, bricklayer, coffin polisher, lifeguard - riches: Actor)
- Coco Chanel
- Charlie Chaplin
- Tom Cruise
- Leonardo DiCaprio
- Chris Gardner (entrepreneur)
- Mahalia Jackson
- Steve Jobs
- Li Ka-Shing (businessman)
- Jan Koum (technology entrepreneur)
- Ralph Lauren (Designer: fashion)
- David Letterman
- Martin W. Littleton (lawyer)
- Jim Morrison
- Liz Murray (motivational speaker)
- Benito Mussolini
- Sarah Jessica Parker (actress)
- Elvis Presley
- John Rockefeller (businessman)
- JK Rowling (rags: single-mother with an income from United Kingdom Dept. of Works and Pensions benefits - riches: Author)
- Colonel Sanders
- Iosif Stalin
- Alan Sugar
- Danny Trejo (rags: former California prison inmate –riches: Actor)
- Cornelius Vanderbilt
- Natalia Vodianova (supermodel, entrepreneur, philanthropist)
- Oprah Winfrey – her mother was a former maid, and her father a former coalminer and barber. She is in possession of a sum total wealth, estimated by Forbes magazine (true on 6 December 2015) as, net-worth 3.2. billion dollars.
- Ronnie Wood
- Victoria Woodhull
Use in art and media
T.V. and films
- Movies, such as Rocky, Trading Places, The Wolf of Wall Street, My Fair Lady, Scarface, The Pursuit of Happyness, Goodfellas, Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, The Public Enemy, The Blind Side, Guru, Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Arm, and Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story.
- Game shows like The Price Is Right, Queen for a Day, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
- Reality television shows such as American Idol, The X Factor and Joe Millionaire.
- Rags to Riches (TV series).
- Video games such as Rags to Riches, a 1985 computer game released for the Commodore 64, or Grand Theft Auto: IV, wherein the character is a poor Yugoslavian-born immigrant who rises up in the criminal empire.
- Songs as "Rags to Riches", from 1953, by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, popularized by Tony Bennett or "This Could All Be Yours", from 2010, by Guster.
- Guns and Roses' song "Paradise City" features the term in its lyrics.
- Vilayat Khan made an album with classical Indian music (Ragas) and named it "Ragas to Riches".
- Jay-Z's song "99 Problems" features the term in its lyrics.
- Rags to Riches, a comic book by Four Color Comics Edition #356
- Rags to Riches, a 1981 romance novel by Joanne Kaye (Rachel Cosgrove Payes)
- A term used in many team sports when a team goes from a poor finishing position one season to a strong finishing position the following season.
- Peña, Manuel. "American Mythologies" Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012. ISBN 9781409442745
- Taleb, Nassim N. "Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets" Random House 2001 ISBN 0812975219
- Weiss, Richard. "The American Myth of Success: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale" Basic Books, 1969. ISBN 0252060431
- Horatio Alger myth
- Nouveau riche
- Ragged Dick
- Self-Made Men
- Social mobility
- Starman Jones
- The Ugly Duckling
- Taleb, 2001. "Part II: Monkeys on typewriters; Survivorship and other Biases"
- Peña, 2012. Chapter 5 "From Rags to Riches"
- Weiss, 1969. P.35
- Diokletian U.tetrarchie
- i100 staff. article. published by The Independent 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Huffington Post. article. published by Huffington Post 14 January 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Crowell, Merle (December 1922). "The Amazing Story of Martin W. Littleton". The American Magazine. Springfield, Ohio: The Crowell Publishing Company. pp. 16, 78–88. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
- Imbd - bio [Retrieved 6 December 2015]
- Data-page published by Forbes magazine magazine 6 December 2015 [Retrieved 6 December 2015]
- The Pursuit of Happyness - Rotten Tomatoes
- Suskin, Steven (2010). Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-19-531407-6.
- Roosters storm into NRL grand final - www.smh.com.au