Bret Harte

March 24, 2018 General Studies

Bret Harte’s short stories convey the idea that nature and humanity reflect one another. Nature and humanity can be both welcoming and ominous. Humanity, like a storm, can be suddenly raging. Both can push you out of a place into something you’ve never expected to face, or into a better place. They can both be calm and gentle at times; and they both have the potential to end. In The Outcasts of Poker, Flat Bret Harte has an excellent portrayal of nature reflecting a communities actions. As the town walks the troublemakers to the town limits “[there] were no comments from the spectators, nor was there any word [from] the escort” (341).

Not long after that “the air [grew] strangely chill and the sky overcast” (343). This sudden change of weather mimics the attitude of the people of Poker Flat. They had once tolerated their town, but all of a sudden they felt the need to halt the lawlessness. They grew cold toward the gambler, the drunkards, and the sinful women, and they unanimously rebuked them. Humanity in this part of the story seems to be cruel and uncaring as to the fate of their fellows. People became so wrapped up in the town’s image that they were willing to harm the lives of a group of people by casting them out of the comforts of a familiar place.

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Nature in turn greets them with rather the same attitude; hostility. The group has to fend off the weather, which seems to be a mercifulless force against them. But it isn’t until after they’ve died that it quiets, as if ashamed of what it’s done to the people. When the town finally do show up they seem to be upset about the death of the group, despite the fact that they were partly to blame. In The Luck of Roaring Camp one can see a different, more nurturing side of nature and humanity.

When people realize the fact that the baby has no family they begin to change their ways to better suit the baby. The entire camp feels obligated to be s good role model for the child and to show him the right way to live. The child’s innocence alters the way the men saw themselves and their life styles. Nature welcomed the baby and “took [him] into her broader breast”(para. 14). Nature becomes a maternal being. In both stories nature and humanity bring people together. They make friendships and one person’s purity rubs off on so many others. Nature draws together the outcasts from Poker Flat.

They sacrifice and die for one another, an act that probably would never have been performed before they were exiled and forced to rely on others. In Roaring Camp, humanity draws nature and civilization together to better a baby’s life. Stumpy and a mule become a sort of burlesque mother and father to The Luck, and nature is the great comforter. It protected The Luck and gave him company when the men were working. Bret Harte’s short stories have a compelling unity about them that relates nature and humanity, that bring people together, but that also end the lives of people.


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