Now, as these street Arabs
of Rome, more fortunate than those of Paris, understand every language, more especially the French, they heard the traveller order an apartment, a dinner, and finally inquire the way to the house of Thomson & French.
This approach allows Berman to reveal the extent to which the American imaginary is transcultural and transnational, to juxtapose American representations with their Arab referents, and to show how American and Arab cultural imaginaries shape one another--as, for example, when he shows how the figures of the Moor, the Bedouin, and the Street Arab
are tropes of American, not Arab, identity (American arabesques); or how notions of Arab identity for writers like Ameen Rihani, Adonis, and Abdelfattah Kilito are likewise products of a transnational imaginary derived from contact with Europe and the U.
26) Alger's novel, as so many other books about urban poverty, thus turned an economic issue into a cultural one, transforming the poor into an exotic race and exhibiting a poor, homeless American boy as a curious street arab, an invented urban savage.
Needham in her 1887 Street Arabs and Gutter Snipes: The Pathetic and Humorous Side of Young Vagabon Life in the Great Cities, with Records of Work for their Reclamation suggested the parallel appeal of freak shows and books about urban poverty: "The Arab hunter must be prepared for endless freaks and multiplied dodges, else he will find himself outwitted in the end.
Ragged Dick is a wonder among street arabs just as Thumb was presented by Barnum as an amazing exception amongst people with unusual size.
Even child-saver Jacob Riis called street arabs "rats gnawing away at the foundations of society.
Between 1854 and 1929, western colonization organizations sent more than 150,000 street arabs to the frontier on "orphan trains" from New York City alone.