The Luck of Roaring Camp: Characters & Quotes

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you are reading the short story, 'The Luck of Roaring Camp' by Bret Harte, you may feel a bit confused by the characters. Worry no more. In this lesson, we will take a look at the important characters and quotes. Read on to get the scoop.

First Born

'The Luck of Roaring Camp' follows the drama that occurs after a child is born at a mining camp. Since this had never happened at Roaring Camp, it's a big deal. Each character reacts differently. Let's take a look at the important people from the story and the comments surrounding the birth of Tommy Luck.

Cherokee Sal

The first character who we really get to know is Cherokee Sal. At the beginning of the story, she is giving birth. The narrator tells us ''Perhaps the less said of her the better. She was a coarse, and, it is to be feared, a very sinful woman.'' To put it another way, there isn't much good that can be said about Cherokee Sal. She was pretty much just a ''bad'' person - according to the standards at that time. We know that she is having a child out of wedlock, and we never find out who the father is, so we might be able to assume that this is why she is considered so ''sinful''.


The next important character is named Stumpy. While Cherokee Sal is giving birth, there is no doctor, midwife or nurse. Someone tells Stumpy to go in because he has fathered children with two different families. Everyone agrees that Stumpy should help. Luckily, ''Stumpy was wise enough to bow to the majority.'' This quote shows that Stumpy may have gone in to help simply because he is pressured into it - not because he is a saint. He still decides to raise the baby. However, when push comes to shove, and the town is mocking Tommy Luck, it is Stumpy who stands up to everyone and says ''It's playing it pretty low down on this yer baby to ring in fun on him.'' In other words, it's pretty crummy to mock a baby when he doesn't even know what's happening. Everyone listened to him, so clearly he has some sort of respect and authority.


After Cherokee Sal passes away and the baby is born, the men in the camp come inside to look at the body and the baby. While a man named Kentuck is looking at the baby, it reaches up and grabs his finger. Kentuck is embarrassed, and he almost blushes. He comments ''That damned little cuss'' and then pulls his finger ''with, perhaps more tenderness and care than he might have been deemed capable of showing.'' From this comment, we can see that Kentuck is probably a tough guy, and it's odd to see him showing any amount of tenderness. We get an even stronger indication of who Kentuck really is when he easily accepts his death after Tommy Luck dies saying ''he's a taking me with him,--tell the boys I've got the Luck with me now.''

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