Bret Harte American Literature Analysis
Harte, a writer who featured local color and depictions of the California Gold Rush in his short stories, created stock characters who were villains externally and saints internally. Many of his protagonists are estranged from their own culture, such as the outcasts in “The Outcasts of Poker Flat.” Harte’s writing has been praised for its fresh humor, good prose (rarely was it inflated and self-conscious), and command of dialect. Wallace Stegner, in his introduction to The Outcasts of Poker Flat, and Other Tales, summarizes why Harte, despite his critics, has lasted:Humor, economy, mastery of a prose instrument and a compact fictional form, a trick of paradox and color, a chosen (later compulsive) subject matter full of romantic glamor, a faculty for creating types that have become the stock in trade of a whole entertainment industry—these are surely enough to account for Harte’s lasting. But there is something more. He made a world. . . . It was at once recognizable as plausible, cohesive, self-contained.
Much has been said of Harte’s narrative strategy. He constantly uses a third-person narrator, creating a distance between himself and his characters. Also contributing to the distance between the author and the characters is that Harte used almost no autobiographical incidents in his stories, though he claimed in an interview that all the characters existed in real life even if he may not have been able to label each specifically....
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