The Luck of Roaring Camp

by Bret Harte

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What does "The Luck of Roaring Camp" reveal about its inhabitants' real nature? Does this reflect human nature?

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In "The Luck of Roaring Camp" by Bret Harte, the rough inhabitants of a mining town during the California gold rush become cleaner, quieter, and more considerate after the unexpected arrival of a baby in their midst. The story reveals that despite the rough exterior of the camp's inhabitants, their real natures are kinder and better. Your opinion of whether this story is an accurate depiction of real human nature depends on your personal experience.

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The short story "The Luck of Roaring Camp" by Bret Harte depicts a wild town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that is changed by the arrival of a baby. A woman named Cherokee Sal gives birth and then dies, and the inhabitants of Roaring Camp are left with the orphaned child. A man named Stumpy takes charge, feeding the child with donkey's milk.

Roaring Camp was a real town in California, and it is now a tourist attraction. The story's historical background is real as well. Harte gives the date of Thomas Luck's birth as 1850, which was in the midst of the California gold rush. The gold rush started in 1848, and by 1850, many Californians, Americans from other locations, and even people from all over the world had begun to flock to California to try to make their fortunes.

As Harte describes, some of the mining towns were rough and dangerous places. In Roaring Camp, fights are common occurrences, and shooting deaths don't even cause men to get up from their card games. However, everything changes after the baby is born. He is given the name "Luck." In response to his presence, the camp begins to clean up and quiet down. The tough, violent men who make up the population of the camp become subdued and even considerate. In the end, one of the roughest of the camp's inhabitants, a man named Kentuck, happily gives his life to try to save the baby during a flood.

In this story, Harte intends to show that beneath their rough exteriors, the men of Roaring Camp have compassionate and concerned natures, and the unexpected appearance of the baby in their camp brings these out. The baby's arrival forces them to get their minds off themselves and their constant squabbling and fighting and onto the miracle of new life. Their adoption of the child brings out their better qualities.

The last part of the question calls for your personal opinion. You need to consider whether in your own experience people show the better aspects of their nature when they need to assist those more helpless than themselves. Often the arrival of a new baby in a family brings a profound change for the better in the behavior of the other family members.

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