Rags to riches
Rags to Riches refers to any situation in which a person rises from poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 to wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

, or sometimes from obscurity to fame. This is a common archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

 in literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 (for example, the writings of Horatio Alger, Jr.
Horatio Alger, Jr.
Horatio Alger, Jr. was a prolific 19th-century American author, best known for his many formulaic juvenile novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty...


These stories give the poor
Poor is an adjective related to a state of poverty, low quality or pity.People with the surname Poor:* Charles Henry Poor, a US Navy officer* Charles Lane Poor, an astronomer* Edward Erie Poor, a vice president of the National Park Bank...

 hope that they can rise to fame and wealth. They are most popular in societies such as the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, where confidence in the ability to move between social classes is an important part of the national identity, and lays the foundation of the "American Dream
American Dream
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each...


Classic times

  • Fairy tale
    Fairy tale
    A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies...

    s, such as Cinderella
    "Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper" is a folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune...

     and Aladdin
    Aladdin is a Middle Eastern folk tale. It is one of the tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights , and one of the most famous, although it was actually added to the collection by Antoine Galland ....

  • Genghis Khan
    Genghis Khan
    Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....

     who was homeless with just his mother and his siblings went on to create the second largest land empire in history.
  • The Roman Emperor Diocletian
    Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

    , born in poverty and whose father was a former slave (by some sources, the emperor himself was born in slavery) http://books.google.co.il/books?id=dSrxcnuJn44C&pg=PA39&lpg=PA39&dq=%22diocletian's+father%22&source=bl&ots=qvYEiqz3-M&sig=NUTvxCFGe0VtGZI7VV3Octs84VY&hl=en&ei=FE57SovAFo-k_QaS_9zZAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=%22diocletian's%20father%22&f=false.
  • The Arthur
    King Arthur
    King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

    ian story of Sir Gareth
    Sir Gareth was a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian Legend. He was the youngest son of Lot and of Morgause, King Arthur's half-sister, thus making him Arthur's nephew, as well as brother to Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, and half brother of Mordred...

    , who rises from a lowly kitchen boy to a prominent Knight of the Round Table.
  • Pope Leo III
    Pope Leo III
    Pope Saint Leo III was Pope from 795 to his death in 816. Protected by Charlemagne from his enemies in Rome, he subsequently strengthened Charlemagne's position by crowning him as Roman Emperor....

     was of commoner origin and attained the high position in spite of violent opposition from the nobility, who considered the papacy as their preserve.
  • Beverly Hillbillies a show about an impoverished trailer family who struck oil and moved to the affluent community at Beverly Hills.

Modern times

  • Movies
    A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

    , such as Rocky
    Rocky is a 1976 American sports drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and both written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It tells the rags to riches American Dream story of Rocky Balboa, an uneducated but kind-hearted debt collector for a loan shark in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...

    , Citizen Kane
    Citizen Kane
    Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film, directed by and starring Orson Welles. Many critics consider it the greatest American film of all time, especially for its innovative cinematography, music and narrative structure. Citizen Kane was Welles' first feature film...

    , Scarface
    Scarface (1983 film)
    Scarface is a 1983 American epic crime drama movie directed by Brian De Palma, written by Oliver Stone, produced by Martin Bregman and starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana...

    , The Pursuit of Happyness
    The Pursuit of Happyness
    Varèse Sarabande released the soundtrack on January 9, 2007, which included sixteen tracks.-Box office:The film debuted first at the North American box office, earning $27 million during its opening weekend and beating out heavily promoted films such as Eragon and Charlotte's Web...

    , Charlie Chaplin
    Charlie Chaplin
    Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

     in The Gold Rush
    The Gold Rush
    The Gold Rush is a 1925 silent film comedy written, produced, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin in his Little Tramp role. The film also stars Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite....

    , Goodfellas
    Goodfellas is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese...

    , The Blind Side
    The Blind Side (film)
    The Blind Side is a 2009 American semi-biographical drama film. It is written and directed by John Lee Hancock, and based on the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis. The storyline features Michael Oher, an offensive lineman who plays for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL...

    , Guru, Slumdog Millionaire
    Slumdog Millionaire
    Slumdog Millionaire is a 2008 British epic romantic drama adventure film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Simon Beaufoy, and co-directed in India by Loveleen Tandan. It is an adaptation of the novel Q & A by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup...

    , and Magic Beyond Words
    Magic Beyond Words
    Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story is a made-for-TV film starring Australian actress Poppy Montgomery. The film, which was shot in B.C. Canada locations altered to look like British locations, details the journey of struggling single mother J. K...

    : The J.K. Rowling Story.
  • Video games such as Rags to Riches
    Rags to Riches (computer game)
    Rags to Riches is a side-scrolling action-adventure game released in 1985 for the Commodore 64, developed by Bob Keener and published by Melody Hall Publishing Corp.-Gameplay:...

    , a 1985 computer game released for the Commodore 64
    Commodore 64
    The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer introduced by Commodore International in January 1982.Volume production started in the spring of 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of US$595...

    , or Grand Theft Auto: IV, wherein the character is a poor Serbian immigrant who rises up in the criminal empire.
  • Game show
    Game show
    A game show is a type of radio or television program in which members of the public, television personalities or celebrities, sometimes as part of a team, play a game which involves answering questions or solving puzzles usually for money and/or prizes...

    s like The Price Is Right
    The Price Is Right
    The Price Is Right is a television game show franchise originally produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, and created by Bob Stewart, and is currently produced and owned by FremantleMedia. The franchise centers on television game shows, but also includes merchandise such as video games, printed...

    , Queen for a Day
    Queen for a Day
    Queen for a Day is an American radio and television game show that helped to usher in American listeners' and viewers' fascination with big-prize giveaway shows. Queen for a Day originated on the Mutual Radio Network on April 30, 1945 in New York City before moving to Los Angeles a few months...

    , and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
    Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
    Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a television game show which offers large cash prizes for correctly answering a series of multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The format is owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television International. The maximum cash prize is one million pounds...

  • Reality television
    Reality television
    Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded...

     shows such as American Idol
    American Idol
    American Idol, titled American Idol: The Search for a Superstar for the first season, is a reality television singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment...

    , The X Factor
    The X Factor (TV series)
    The X Factor is a television talent show franchise originating in the United Kingdom, where it was devised as a replacement for Pop Idol. It is a singing competition, now held in various countries, which pits contestants against each other. These contestants are aspiring pop singers drawn from...

     and Joe Millionaire
    Joe Millionaire
    Joe Millionaire is an American reality television show that was broadcast on Fox beginning in January 2003. It was broadcast in the UK that same year...

  • Rags to Riches (TV series).
  • "Rags to Riches" (song)
    Rags to Riches (song)
    "Rags to Riches" is a 1953 popular song by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. The best-known version of the song was recorded by Tony Bennett and reached number one on the Billboard chart in 1953. In the same year, a version by David Whitfield reached number three in the British charts...

    , from 1953, by Richard Adler
    Richard Adler
    Richard Adler is an American lyricist, composer and producer of several Broadway shows.-Biography:Born in New York City, Adler had a musical upbringing, his father being a concert pianist. After serving in the Navy he began his career as a lyricist, teaming up with Jerry Ross in 1950...

     and Jerry Ross
    Jerry Ross (composer)
    Jerry Ross was an American lyricist and composer whose works with Richard Adler for the musical theater include The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, winners of Tony Awards in 1955 and 1956 respectively in both the "Best Musical" and "Best Composer and Lyricist" categories.-Biography:Ross was born...

    , popularized by Tony Bennett
    Tony Bennett
    Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

  • Rags to Riches, a 1981 romance novel by Joanne Kaye (Rachel Cosgrove Payes
    Rachel Cosgrove Payes
    Rachel R. Cosgrove Payes, also known as E.L. Arch and Joanne Kaye was an American genre novelist, and author of books on the Land of Oz...



The concept of "Rags to riches" has been criticised from two opposite directions:
  • By conservative proponents of rigidly hierarchical class systems, where all persons know their station in life and remain for life in the same social position into which they were born. This is expressed for example in the Bible's
    The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

     Book of Proverbs
    Book of Proverbs
    The Book of Proverbs , commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible.The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" . When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint the title became "paroimai paroimiae"...


For three [things] the earth is disquieted, and for four [which] it cannot bear: For a slave when he reigneth (...) and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.
"A slave when he reigneth", (עבד כי ימלוך) has become a still-current Hebrew expression, implying that a slave, or a person from a low social origin, would be bitter and vindictive having attained a position of power.
  • By social reformer
    Reform movement
    A reform movement is a kind of social movement that aims to make gradual change, or change in certain aspects of society, rather than rapid or fundamental changes...

    s and revolution
    A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

    aries, who argue that only a handful of exceptionally capable and lucky persons are actually able to travel the "rags to riches" road, and that the great publicity given to such cases is an illusion designed to help keep the masses of the working class
    Working class
    Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

     and the poor in line, and prevent them from agitating for an overall collective change in the direction of social equality
    Social equality
    Social equality is a social state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in a certain respect. At the very least, social equality includes equal rights under the law, such as security, voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and the...


See also

  • Capitalism
    Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

  • Lottery
    A lottery is a form of gambling which involves the drawing of lots for a prize.Lottery is outlawed by some governments, while others endorse it to the extent of organizing a national or state lottery. It is common to find some degree of regulation of lottery by governments...

  • Nouveau riche
    Nouveau riche
    The nouveau riche , or new money, comprise those who have acquired considerable wealth within their own generation...

  • Poverty
    Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

  • Ragged Dick
    Ragged Dick
    Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks is a Bildungsroman by Horatio Alger, Jr. serialized in Student and Schoolmate in 1867, and released as a full length novel in May 1868 by A. K. Loring. It was the first volume in the six volume Ragged Dick Series, and became Alger's...

  • Self-Made Men
    Self-Made Men (Frederick Douglass)
    "Self-Made Men" is a famous lecture by Frederick Douglass . In this speech, which was first delivered in 1859, he gives his own definition of the self-made man and explains what he thinks are the means to become such a man.-The Concept:...

  • Social mobility
    Social mobility
    Social mobility refers to the movement of people in a population from one social class or economic level to another. It typically refers to vertical mobility -- movement of individuals or groups up from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marrying; but can also refer to...

  • Starman Jones
    Starman Jones
    Starman Jones is a 1953 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a farm boy who wants to go to the stars. It was first published by Charles Scribner's Sons as part of the Heinlein juveniles series.-Plot summary:...

  • The Ugly Duckling
    The Ugly Duckling
    "The Ugly Duckling" is a literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen . The story tells of a homely little bird born in a barnyard who suffers abuse from his neighbors until, much to his delight , he matures into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of all...

  • Wealth
    Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

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