2. 2. Bret Harte. The Luck of Roaring Camp (2014)Apunte Inglés
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2. 2. BRET HARTE. THE LUCK OF ROARING CAMP
We have seen a lot of criticism in the frog story. What happens whit this one? Is it more didactic? A baby
can bring joy and make changes to people who have bad life habits. It's like the birth of Jesus. There are
people adoring him, and Jesus also made his effect to 'bad', outcast people. These people also remind us
of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There's a variety of characters. Some of them are very
stereotyped (prostitute, etc.).
Francis Bret Harte - Known for his tales of the Old West - Travelled to California when he was 17 - His success began with the publication of “The Luck of Roaring Camp” - An acclaimed writer, he returned to the East in 1871, but his career lost interest once away from the West - He spent the last years of his life as a diplomat in Europe ‘The development of the American Story’ - Authors like Poe didn't show an American history, they just imitated European and English stories. They are copying old models.
- Humor like an origin to create an authentic American literature (he would agree with Mark Twain).
- There has to be an American experience showing American life. It's not about talking of Wall Street, but the West.
The characters are constantly betting about basically everything that has to do with the child.
Harte, "The Rise of the Short Story” (1899) - During the first half of the 19th century the American short story avoided “all that was American”, remaining “apologetic” and “distinctly provincial” - The element that transformed the American literary tradition was the humour that pervaded many spheres of American life - At first it was crude, but then the press polished it.
- Main characteristics: it was concise and condensed, avoiding prolixity and going to the point; it was irreverent and avoided moral responsibility; it shunned affectation of style; realism - Very present in the daily press, this kind of writing was “the parent of the American short story” - The humorists did not affect the craft of the serious short story writers, who continued writing “with their old-fashioned methods, their admirable morals, their well-worn sentiments”. The authors are searching for a new kind of writing.
- The Gold Rush of 1849 provided the perfect situation for writing stories: a “heterogeneous and remarkable population”, “the environment of a magnificent scenery”, and a historical setting full of “the crumbling ruins of early Spanish possession” and a “picturesque” local population.
- Personal circumstances: as editor of the Overland Monthly, Harte attempts to publish texts that reflect that wild picturesqueness of California, but his story “The Luck of Roaring Camp” receives totally different reviews in the West, the East and overseas.
- “The secret of the American short story” was based on the following elements: a) realistic treatment of the characteristics of American life; b) use of its habitual language; c) no moral, unless necessarily arising from the story; d) no more elimination than necessary.
Derringer (a small gun that gamblers used to hude in their sleeves) and colt (gun most of people used in the west). They compare the child to a derringer as an exaggeration. It is after all a very realistic element.
They give him gifts (page 121 left): sort of parody (Jesus). The little comments made by the narrator are the fun part of the story.
There are rivalries between the camps. Many of them are criminals but only two are convicted. There's another camp, Red Dog. They had to go far, to Sacramento, to buy the cradle for the child.
The heavy rains are dangerous, yet make the landslides that clean the dirty and help people to find gold.
An unlucky moment can bring luck and the reverse. The rain brings gold, but it takes lives.
There is use of vernacular language, like ‘donkey’. We have a mitch-match actually, a mixture between standard and non-standard, polite and ‘non-polite’. There’s also a British character. Roaring Camp has this name because everyone was shouting and yelling, ‘roaring’.
There are many religious references, like the regenerative power of a child. He’s like ‘condemned’ because he dies at the end. He brings luck but he isn’t lucky, it’s like an irony. At the end, he would bring them bad luck because many of the camp is destroyed by water (like the Great Flood, but even the good ones die this time). It could be also about the great power of nature, no matter what we try to control.
The author supported the gold rush. The story teaches us indirectly several moral lessons.
The story blends elements from the western but also (and it is different from Twain) uses elements of the sentimental narrative from the romance (e. g. when he talks about the mother). Harte became popular because he knew how to mix the fiction of the East with the fiction of the West. The polite language appears at the beginning but then it fades out. The descriptions at the beginning are also interesting: he compares characters to Raphael, Hamlet, etc.
The closing of the story is also very sentimental. Mark Twain only parodies this language in Huckleberry Finn. Here, the narrator tries to make the story softer or sweeter for the readers.
The Luck, like Christ, is carrying away of the sins of the people.
The Gold Rush of 1849 - January 1848: gold was found in Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California - By then California was a territory inhabited above all by Native Americans and Californios. Only less than 1,000 Anglos lived there.
- March 1848: a local newspaper spreads the news.
- Mid-June 1848: most of the men in San Francisco leave the town in search for gold in the mountains.
- August 1848: the number of miners coming from neighboring areas reaches 4000.
- December 1848: the abundance of gold is confirmed by the government, sparking off a gold fever across the East.
- Throughout 1849 thousands of young men will leave their homes following the get-rich-quick dream.
- Some people travelled by land whereas others risked the fast yet dangerous journey around Cape Horn or across the isthmus of Darien.
- By the end of the year, around 100,000 people constitute the non-native (mostly Anglo) population of California.
- California was admitted to the Union as a free state in late 1849.
- By 1850 surface gold was already difficult to obtain. The Gold Rush was over by 1851.
“The Luck of Roaring Camp” (1868) - Based on The Gold Rush of 1849 and the Great Flood of California of 1862.
- Palatable fiction: (Western) Realism blended with (Eastern) sentimentality and romance - Stereotyped characters - Christian motifs: Tommy Luck as infant Christ; the adoration of the Magi; the Big Flood in the book of Genesis; Baptism; Regeneration… - Gambling theme (not in the sense of cheating): life is full of (un)lucky strikes - Roaring Camp as a melting plot/independent republic - Didacticism: "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away" - Pastoral view of nature/pathetic fallacy: Rusin, it means that you use nature but not to create a personification, but to make nature reproduce the feelings that some characters are experiencing in that moment. For example, if a character it's sad it is cloudy, - Several ironies: the “Luck” brings bad luck; a motley group of immigrants that rejects foreigners… ...