The Luck of Roaring Camp

by Bret Harte
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What is the moral of "The Luck of Roaring Camp"?

This story attempts to show how good people can be brought down by terrible circumstances.

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The answer to this question is largely subjective and best left up to individual readers. The reason for that is because the moral of a story can be loosely defined as the message conveyed by the story. In other words, it is the lesson learned from a story, but that...

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The answer to this question is largely subjective and best left up to individual readers. The reason for that is because the moral of a story can be loosely defined as the message conveyed by the story. In other words, it is the lesson learned from a story, but that lesson isn't necessarily clearly stated by the author; therefore, the moral of a story is very much left up to each reader. For me, I think a possible moral of this story is that people can change. Roaring camp is introduced to readers as a morally corrupt and degenerate camp. The arrival of the baby causes the men of the camp to begin changing toward a more fatherly role for this child. Their behavior improves, their attitude toward fellow townsfolk improves, and their overall general hygiene even improves. Knowing that a person is never truly morally "lost" and is capable of changing is an important lesson in this story. With that said, I also think this story teaches a darker lesson. The goodness that was developing in these men ultimately wasn't able to protect them from disaster and heartache. Simply because a person is "good" doesn't mean good things will always happen.

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Bret Harte’s short story “The Luck of Roaring Camp” has many different morals, which depend on how the reader chooses to interpret the story.  By focusing on certain aspects of the story – symbols and characters – it is possible to see “Roaring Camp” as a religious parody.  Alternately, the story could be taken at face value and a moral can be found that way.

If the story is viewed as a religious parody (featuring Cherokee Sal instead of the Virgin Mary and The Luck instead of Christ), the moral is a negative one.  While things in the camp get better with the mere presence of The Luck, the ultimate end of the camp is a desolate one; the bigger picture shows Harte’s dislike of Christianity.  In the Bible, there is the Christ Child, who received riches from the wise men; Roaring Camp has The Luck and a collection basket of whatever stolen items might be in the miners' pockets.  A Biblical flood poured down to kill all the unbelievers; in the flood of Roaring Camp, Kentuck and Stumpy, the two men most “blessed” by The Luck, die.  Harte’s moral for the religious parody is that bettering yourself for a religion will result in tragedy.

At face value, “The Luck of Roaring Camp” is the story of a mining camp full of crass men who suddenly find themselves stuck with a baby.  Out of distrust for other camps, they keep the child and their way of life becomes better as they try to make a home for The Luck.  Ultimately, The Luck is taken from them, along with someone they looked to as a leader, and one of their men.  One moral taken from this circumstance could be that an innocent influence can change people for the better.  For example, by relying so much on The Luck, the men started considering themselves as more than miners; they saw themselves as men again.  However, the moral has a twist; Kentuck and Stumpy were the closest to the baby, but they were the ones who died.  An innocent influence can change people for the better, but not everyone can be saved.

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