Invisible Enemy in the House: “The Luck of Roaring Camp” by Bret Harte

Have you ever thought how a newborn can destroy the world that you live in? People usually associate babies with angels because they do not

Have you ever thought how a newborn can destroy the world that you live in? People usually associate babies with angels because they do not know anything about the world, and they do not have any sin. They think that because babies begin to learn by imitating the people who are around them. In this sense, they are the representation of pureness, and innocence. Also, some people believe that a baby brings joy to house. Even, she/he can save a broken marriage, so she/he symbolizes an idea of salvation for her/his parents. For them, the baby becomes hope and “luck”. This is a kind of superstition, and utopic thought because a baby is not a magical being or a superhero. Except the horror movies, no one thinks that a baby can create chaos for her/his parents. Although the coming of an infant seems like a magical occurrence, she/he can turn your world upside down. In Bret Harte’s “The Luck of Roaring Camp”, baby Luck is the representation of the enemy of the men’s nature, the destruction of nature, and the anti- feminism.

In Bret Harte’s story, Luck represents the enemy of the men’s nature. “‘Me and that ass,’ he would say, ‘has been father and mother to him! Don’t you, ‘he would add, apostrophizing the helpless bundle before him, ‘never go back on us’” (Harte, 347). When Cheroke Sal, who is the mother of the baby, dies, the men in the cabin have to take care of the baby. So, he does not become a “bumble of joy”, he becomes a burden for them. Even if they do not want to, he takes their masculinity and makes them more feminine. According to this concept, they lose their freedom. “The assemblage numbered about a hundred men. One or two of these were actual fugitives from justice, some were criminal, and all were reckless. Physically they exhibited no indication of their past lives and character” (Harte, 344), and “‘D – n the luck!’ and ‘Curse the luck!’ was abandoned, as having a new personal bearing. Vocal music was not interdicted, being supposed to have a soothing, tranquilizing quality; and one song, sung by ‘Man-o-’War Jack,’ and English sailor from her Majesty’s Australian colonies, was quite popular as a lullaby” (Harte, 348). Although the men who live in the cabin are considered as “the bad guys”, they are tamed by the baby Luck. Even, they sing him lullaby. “The cabin assigned to ‘Tommy Luck’ – or ‘The Luck,’ as he was more frequently called – first showed signs of improvement. It was kept scrupulously clean and whitewashed. Then it was boarded, clothed, and papered” (Harte, 348). So, although Luck makes them “civilized” by changing their daily routine, he changes their nature too.

In Harte’s “The Luck of Roaring Camp”, the infant Luck destroys the order of nature, and the power of God.

He would say, ‘They’ve a street up there in ‘Roaring’ that would lay over any street in Red Dog. They’ve got vines and flowers round their houses, and they wash themselves twice a day. But they’re mighty rough on strangers, and they worship an Ingin baby. With the prosperity of the camp came a desire for further improvement. It was proposed to build a hotel in the following spring, and to invite one or two decent families to reside there for the sake of The Luck, who might perhaps profit by female companionship." (Harte, 350)

The camp represents nature but after the arrival of the baby Luck, it turns into “city” because the cabin and the woods turn into hotels, building, and so forth. He makes the camp “more civilized”, just like he makes the men more civilized too, so the camp is disappeared. He does not only deconstruct nature, but he also becomes a Godlike figure for the people, who live in the camp, so they act according to it. In this sense, he undermines the creation of “actual God”. It may be claimed that for the first time, a human being can be able to upper-hand nature.

In “The Luck of Roaring Camp” by Harte, the newborn Luck is against feminism. “But at that time, she was the only woman in Roaring Camp, and was just then lying in sore extremity, when she most needed the ministration of her own sex. Dissolute, abandoned, and irreclaimable, she was yet suffering a martyrdom hard enough to bear even when veiled by sympathizing womanhood, but now terrible in her loneliness” (Harte, 344). In the story, Cherokee Sal is the only woman, who lives in the camp. Also, she is pregnant to Luck. While she is delivering him, she dies but the baby survives. In this sense, he kills the only woman in camp, and he becomes an anti-feminist figure by doing it. It may be claimed that Sal’s birth represents rivalry of power between man and woman and in the end, the male wins it. “Perhaps the less said of her the better. She was a coarse and, it is to be feared, a very sinful woman” (Harte, 344), and “No allusion was made to the mother, and the father was unknown” (Harte, 347). Also, Sal is considered as a sinful woman because no one knows who the baby’s father is. In the camp, every man is a fugitive and criminal, and they have a chance to redeem but Luck takes this change from his mother by killing her and making her “sinful”. “‘Me and that ass,’ he would say, ‘has been father and mother to him! Don’t you’” (Harte, 347). Besides, by killing her mother, he takes the motherhood from her mother, and gives it to the man, so in a way, Sal becomes nothing in the eyes of society.

To sum up, “The Luck of Roaring Camp” demolishes the positive thoughts about a baby because the newborn Luck is against man’s nature, nature, and feminism. He is like a “curse” because he changes the men’s nature, he makes them more feminine, and takes their freedom. In addition, he changes their daily routine to make them domestic. Also, he destroys nature and makes the camp more city-like, and civilized. Even, he is in the position of God, so he can control the people who live in the camp. In this sense, it may be argued that he is challenging to God. He not only challenges him but also takes his mother’s life. Morever, he does not even give her a chance to redeem. To his survival, he takes his motherly instinct and gives it to the men. In this sense, as an infant, he does not represent innocence or pureness because he is the invisible enemy of the roaring camp.

Works Cited

Harte, Bret. “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature, edited by Robert S. Levine, 9th edition, New York, W.W. Norton, vol. C, 2017, pp. 343-350.