“The Luck of Roaring Camp”: A Narrator’s Connection to Meaning
In the short story “The Luck of Roaring Camp” (Overland Monthly August 1868) author Brete Harte invents a narrator to tell the story of Roaring Camp and its residents. Set in the Sierra foothills of California during the gold rush era, “The Luck of Roaring Camp” is about a group of men brought together by one common goal, to find gold. The narrator describes these men as rough, misogynistic fugitives who have a thirst for gambling, drinking, money, and all together renounce members of the opposite sex. Their fate unexpectedly shifts with the ironic arrival of an orphaned baby boy. Through this twist, the men have to learn to bond in new ways for the sake of an infant who has rattled the belief system of these men. For this adventure, the narrator takes on the role of a storyteller, influencing the flow and rhythm of the story through the ups and downs of the characters. In taking this role, the narrator connects and creates the meaning of the story by developing a depiction of the characters, their metamorphosis, and a symbolic lesson from their mistakes.
From the beginning of the story, the narrator sets a tone which the Roaring camp members follow. They are described as irresponsible opportunists who are stubborn and unchangeable. The members in the camp live in an alienated society where it is acceptable for men to behave as animals, wild and unkempt in all of their ways. This depiction by the narrator is created in order to provide excitement in the story when a change is introduced. A shift in the narrator’s attitude towards the men signals this change. The men develop a responsibility after a mother dies giving birth to a child. What should they do with this newborn baby? With this question left to be answered by the notorious members of the Roaring Camp, the narrator develops and personifies a character, nature, which is symbolic to the grace and fury of the story.