What is the exposition in "The Luck of Roaring Camp?"

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Exposition refers to the part of the story where the author gives background information, usually about the setting and characters. Exposition usually comes close to the beginning of a story, but it can occur elsewhere as well. In "The Luck of Roaring Camp," Bret Harte starts out his story traditionally, with the exposition at the beginning, specifically the first seven paragraphs.

In these paragraphs we learn about how rough the camp is (paragraph 1), who the baby's mother was (paragraph 2), that deaths were relatively common there but births were novel (paragraph 3), who the residents of the camp were (paragraphs 4, 5, and 6), and what the setting was (paragraph 7). In paragraph 8, the action of the story picks up in earnest, although it has been hinted at during the exposition.

These paragraphs contain some of the most brilliantly written exposition in literature because of how they set the tone for the story and clearly create characterization with relatively few words. The following sentences display masterful exposition:

Perhaps in the minor details of fingers, toes, ears, etc., the camp may have been deficient, but these slight omissions did not detract from their aggregate force. The strongest man had but three fingers on his right hand; the best shot had but one eye.

Thus Harte introduces the reader to this rag-tag band of "roughs" in a way that we can easily picture, allowing us to engage with them as the plot of the story develops.

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The Luck of Roaring Camp

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