by E. L. Doctorow
Over the course of the novel, the Waterworks, by E.L.
Doctorow, the author uses parallelism with the characters
and plot to give the reader a deeper sense of the
corruption that existed in New York during the post-civil
One of the parallels used by Doctorow, is comparing the
events of the plot with the events of the more general
corruption of the Tweed Ring. Throughout the story, as the
plans of Augustus Pemberton and the rest of his sinister
cohorts are uncovered, so are those of the Tweed Ring. When
the reader first starts to get a glimpse of the mystery
behind Mr. Pemberton's plans, so does one read of the
beginning of the unearthing of the evils of the Tweed Ring.
Now, if this is understood, one can see that the entire
story is a microcosm of the greater corruption of New York
city. If this is so, then the events and characters who
uncover this singular plot are in actuality a microcosm of
the greater downfall of the post-Civil War corruption in
The two main characters who discover the mystery are
Captain Donne and the person who tells the story, an
editor. These two men are very similar in many ways.
Firstly, their jobs are very much related: both jobs are to
reveal information. Both a newspaper editor and a police
captain seek to find the unknown. However, although they
are involved in the same task, their purpose and therefore
their methods are different. A newspaper editor is
interested in revealing the hidden, for the knowledge of
the people. On the other hand, a police captain, is more
interested in simply finding the truth and not necessarily
making it public. This is the basic difference between the
Over the course of the story, Donne is the one who is
mostly responsible for finding out the secret of Augustus.
The reason for this can be linked to the fact that he is
the private man, not the public. Augustus and his group
were powerful men with powerful connections and therefore
were in control of the public. Therefore, an editor of a
paper cannot fight such a battle against these people. It
takes someone who can work behind the scenes for such an
investigation. This is why Donne is able to uncover them.
Now if the reader understands that this is in fact a
microcosm of what was occurring in the city government,
then one can understand that this is how they (the Tweed
Ring) were brought down.
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