What are some major themes of the story "The Luck of Roaring Camp"?

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Isolation is another important theme in the story. Roaring Luck itself is some way removed from civilization, both culturally and geographically. This wild, remote outpost provides a suitable home for the colorful cast of characters who are among society's outcasts.

Yet the characters' isolation from so-called respectable society paradoxically brings...

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Isolation is another important theme in the story. Roaring Luck itself is some way removed from civilization, both culturally and geographically. This wild, remote outpost provides a suitable home for the colorful cast of characters who are among society's outcasts.

Yet the characters' isolation from so-called respectable society paradoxically brings them closer together. For the denizens of the old mining camp, it's very much a case of Roaring Camp against the world. This attitude of close-knit solidarity can be seen in the case of Cherokee Sal, who herself is isolated on account of being the only woman about the place. The men of the camp protect her, thus ensuring the safe delivery of her baby. (Though sadly Sal herself dies in childbirth.) Before she passed away, Cherokee Sal's status as Roaring Camp's lone female, combined with the power of the ruling patriarchy, meant that she remained an isolated figure, even in the midst of a largely supportive environment.

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The civilizing influence that the infant, christened Thomas Luck, brings to the rough mining camp of "Roaring Camp", offers the theme that in even the most seemingly incorrigible men lays goodness waiting to be realized. The innocence and vulnerability of children, Harte observes, tends to bring out the generous and protective instincts of adults; in this case, men who are in the West for purely mercenary reasons are quick to step forward and look after an orphan. In doing so, the men become more civilized, clean, moral, considerate, and purposeful in their approach to life. Their needs become secondary to the child's, and in looking after the boy, the men of Roaring Camp become a cohesive community that is unafraid to embrace the goodness they have found in themselves and each other.

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One of the themes of the story is the possibility of redemption, especially for sinners. The baby in the story, christened Thomas Luck, is born from Cherokee Sal, a prostitute. After Sal dies in childbirth, the men at the camp are redeemed by taking care of the baby. They give him a christening, and, as Harte writes, "Soon after the ceremony, Roaring Camp began to change." The proprietor of the store where the men play cards decides to install rugs and mirrors, and the rowdy and disheveled men, seeing themselves in the mirrors, decide to care for their hair, beards, and clothes. They keep their voices down in the camp so that the baby can sleep, and the camp becomes a place of serenity. When a flood courses through the town, the baby is sadly killed, and Kentuck, who cared for the baby, is mortally injured. He goes out to sea, taking the baby with him--a symbol that he brings the luck and redemption he has achieved with him to his demise. Another major theme of the story is the changeable nature of fate or luck, as the baby quickly brings joy to the camp, but the men's fate changes just as quickly with the dangerous flood that rips through the camp.

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