Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Few authors ever achieve the astonishing literary success that Bret Harte did during his lifetime. His enormously popular stories of California life were in great demand by magazine editors all over the country, and The Atlantic Monthly offered the unprecedented amount of ten thousand dollars for the sole rights to one year of Harte’s literary production. Such enormous popularity is seldom consistent with a lasting literary reputation, however. Harte reached his artistic maturity at the age of thirty-one, and the quality of his work began to decline five years later. During the few years when he was at his peak, Harte produced some stories of genuine literary value, most of which are collected in The Luck of Roaring Camp, and Other Sketches. It is therefore mainly on this volume that Harte’s literary reputation rests.
Harte’s vision of life goes far to explain the meteoric popularity of his stories. The local color and picturesque characters he chose and the trick endings he devised added to the attraction, but these were surface features. The heart of his success lay in his ability to convey his particular vision of life to his readers. Harte was, essentially, an optimist and an uplifter. This does not mean that he believed in a shallow doctrine of social or moral reform. Rather, he believed in the potential goodness of human beings and in the possibility of redemption for every sinner. Harte saw life as a purgatory for the human...
(The entire section is 1412 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!