Rags to riches
Rags to riches refers to any situation in which a person rises from poverty to wealth, and in some cases from obscurity to 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 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.
- Genghis Khan, who was homeless with just his mother and his siblings. He went on to create the largest land empire in history.
- The Roman Emperor Diocletian, born in poverty and whose father was a former slave (by some sources, the emperor himself was born in slavery) .
- 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.
- China's Hongwu Emperor and Emperor Gaozu of Han, who were born into peasant families, but eventually founded two of the nation's most illustrious imperial dynasties.
- 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 modern times, helped unify pre-modern Japan.
- 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, and Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story.
- 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.
- 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).
- Song as "Rags to Riches" (song), from 1953, by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, popularized by Tony Bennett or "This Could All Be Yours", from 2010, by Guster
- Rags to Riches, a 1981 romance novel by Joanne Kaye (Rachel Cosgrove Payes)
- 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".
- Rags to Riches, a comic book by Four Color Comics Edition #356
- Andrew Carnegie was born in a one-room cottage in Scotland to weavers, and became one of the richest men ever by creating a steel empire in the United States
- Li Ka Shing worked his way into becoming Asia's richest man ever.
- 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.
- Jay-Z's song 99 Problems features the term in its lyrics.
- Dado Banatao, a Filipino entrepreneur and engineer working in the high-tech industry. He was born in a small barrio of Malabbac in the town of Iguig, Cagayan, Philippines.
- Chris Gardner, who struggled with homelessness, in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness.
- 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
- 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
- Roosters storm into NRL grand final - www.smh.com.au
- The Pursuit of Happyness - Rotten Tomatoes