Bret Harte : A Comparison Of Works

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Unquestionably the influence of Harte upon the American short story has been greater than that exerted by any other American author...

Bret Harte was the one author who can be credited with creating the western frontier setting. At age 16 decided to move to California; a decision that catapulted him into literary fame. His works earned him literary acclaim and $10,000 for a single year of his work, and from this he was indebted to the land of California. Harte, ironically, began to despise the land that brought him his fame and fortune. His clash of interests captures the essence of Bret Harte as a writer. Through his biographical, stylistic, and psychological critical elements, the common theme between the two seemingly different short-stories; "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat'" can be seen.

Harte uses stylistic elements to convey theme. First, Harte's irony reflects his opinion that the innocence of one triggers change in others.

In "The Luck of Roaring Camp," innocence changes the inhabitants of Roaring Camp; "...some were criminal, all were reckless...," (3) into caring people, sacrificing much for the upbringing of "˜The Luck'. In "The Outcasts of Poker Flat", the result of Piney and Tom Simson staying with the outcasts changes "˜Mother Shipton', a once peevish prostitute into a compassionate woman who, after rejecting to eat for a week, and after showing her rations to Mr.

Oakhurst, asked, "give "˜em to the child [Piney]," (33). Walden Litz, literary critic, says, "...just as the miners in Roaring Camp are regenerated by the Luck, so the outcasts of Poker Flat are regenerated by the beauty of innoncence and love in the face of death." (348). The innocence of "˜The Luck' and the couple of Piney and "˜The Innocent' changes...