playing card, a two of clubs, in the center next to a hunting knife

The Outcasts of Poker Flat

by Bret Harte

Start Free Trial

How could you analyze Stumpy’s character from the “The Luck of Roaring Camp”?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Luck of Roaring Camp," Stumpy's character stands slightly apart from the other members of the town as he takes on the responsibility of raising "Tommy Luck."

When Cherokee Sal gives birth to a baby boy and dies, the town of criminals, gamblers and "roughs" ask Stumpy to attend the woman during labor because there are no women in the camp, and Stumpy has been the "father" of two different families.

The baby is born, but Sal dies, and so Stumpy takes over the care of the boy.  Unpredictably, Stumpy takes the job very seriously.  He starts by taking a collection for the "orphan," and the men become very responsible for the boy, following Stumpy's example.

Stumpy provides a clean, healthy place for the child to live, and soon the rest of the town follows suit by washing and dressing in clean clothes when they visit, which is often.  While the town members plan to have a "wild-party" christening, Stumpy puts a stop to it, thinking that the baby deserves better, and in his own crude way, delivers a "blessing" over the child as best he can.  (The town also agrees to name the infant Tommy Luck.)

Stumpy demands that he be named godfather, as he has assumed the care of the boy more than any other person; the other men agree, and it's obvious that Stumpy has taken his responsibility to heart.

Stumpy leads the members of the town to behave in a more civilized way for the sake of the boy.  Not only does the behavior of the men improve, but also the town's appearance.  And while the men have been extremely hesitant in welcoming newcomers, they change their minds for Tommy's sake, inviting two "desirable" families to settle there to provide company for the baby boy.

Stumpy becomes a caring and nurturing parent-figure to the baby.  He puts the child first and expects the other men in the town to do the same.  Having lived in a town that welcomed criminals and unsavory types (Stumpy being one of them), he rises above what is good for himself, for the benefit of the newest member of Roaring Camp.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team