A Brief Analysis of Bret Harte's "The Luck of Roaring Camp"

A short analysis of Bret Harte's short story based on its romantic and realist features.

Frances Bret Harte’s “The Luck of Roaring Camp” which have the characteristics of both romanticism and realism is about a baby who completely changes the life of the men in a mining camp.

The characters are adventurous and money-minded as they search for gold in the camp. Living in the wilderness, they realize the beauty of the rocks and pebbles after the baby’s birth. Therefore, the awe of nature, which is a romantic feature, appears in the setting of the story later on. They adopt a new lifestyle after the prostitute gives birth to the baby boy and dies. In this sense, the prostitute reflects realism since she is neither described as a noble nor an incredible natural beauty. As all of the men have intercourse with the only female in the camp, they cannot be certain about who the father of the newborn is. Thus, every one of them sees themselves as potential father.

Looking after the child, they take the responsibilities of both fathers and mothers who are expected to take care of the children and engage in domestic affairs in the patriarchial system. In this way, the story brings a new perspective on gender roles, and these responsibilities the men take also depict the reality of everyday life. As the story unfolds, the rough and impolite men who reflect ordinary people in the real world adapt themselves to their new life and become more neat and organized for the child.

Although the story can be taken as realistic, it has allegorical meanings, a feature that appears in romanticism. For instance, the baby symbolizing luck and new beginnings brings redemption for the men, which is similar to the salvation of the Christians with the coming of the Redeemer. Taken from this perspective, the narrator ridicules the salvation of Christians by using such romantic features as an allegory since realists do not make religious allusions.

The narrator emphasizes that appearances can be deceiving. Thus, he mentions that the strongest man in the camp is the one who has three fingers in his hand. By saying this, he stresses that appearances may fool people. In this way, the narrator tries to make the reader realize that the important point is not the form and theme of the story but the criticism and the idea conveyed to the reader. Therefore, he places his work between romanticism and realism to criticize romantics.