Claims of Identity by Alan Lewis Silva


This Humanities post features my book CLAIMS OF IDENTITY by Alan Lewis Silva, a book of essays discussing relationships between archetypes and identities.

Drawing on history, timeless tropes, and comparative literature, this book explores the activities of identification in a variety of ways, adding significance to representations of outsiders and the marginalized in order to appreciate authors and cultures with a view toward philosophy.

A thematic treatise included in this volume — “Claims of Identity in Bret Harte’s Gabriel Conroy” — argues that identity is claimed rather than inherently bestowed, and that this is contributive to California identity.

The treatise also discusses Bret Harte, the original California author. Gabriel Conroy, Bret Harte’s only long novel, published in 1875, tells a fiction of who “owns” California, symbolized as a silver mine in the Sierras.

Various imposters are implicated. The result is a sweeping adventure that typifies Californian identity to this day, and compliments the understanding of additional topics.

Claims of Identity Playlist

Preface to “Bret Harte’s Later Stories”

Bret Harte earned his livelihood by writing exotic stories of mid-nineteenth century California such as “The Luck of Roaring Camp” (1868) and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” (1869). He lived in San Francisco and wrote most of his early stories and poems when California was experiencing a substantial rise in its population. This population growth came mainly from Anglo-American settlers after the discovery of gold in Sutter’s Mill in 1848, also coinciding with the end of Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Yet the irony of Harte’s voluminous western writings is that the majority of them were written while he lived abroad in Europe from 1878 to 1902. Historically, critics have attacked these later writings as inferior reproductions of his earlier stories.

However, the critical accusation that these later stories merely reproduce familiar plot lines is an oversimplification. In fact, it was during his residence in Europe that Harte experimented with genres other than the western, adapting his sympathetic representations of outsider characters (misfits such as gamblers, ramblers, and miners) in new ways. The specific dilemma this essay addresses is how Harte was able to represent these outsider figures apart from the western genre during his isolation from hearth and home.

The first section of this essay examines his character representations and themes in two of his German stories, “Peter Schroeder” (1879) and “A Legend Sammtstadt” (1878). Both of these stories were critically rejected (Scharnhorst, Bret Harte 72, 74, 76). They are also valuable artifacts because they represent a distinctly American perspective of living abroad.

This section will illuminate some of Harte’s personal feelings about Europe, displacement, and what it means to be an American. This section will also discuss how these relevant biographical contexts illuminate Harte’s growth and development as a writer. This is connected with some of the attacks on Harte’s reputation and an assessment of his personality traits.

The second section of this essay begins with a close reading of “The Lost Galleon” (1867), an early poem which is very good, and underappreciated, like most of Harte’s poetical works. The discussion of this poem is followed by an analysis of how outsider characters are represented in three of his most popular works. This mentions some of the critical judgments made about Harte’s literary merit, and some defenses to them.




Alan Lewis Silva is the minister of Sdbiblestudy Church ( He is a California author of seven books, including Two Essene Gospels (2023), Early Christianity Unveiled (2022), and Keys to the Hebrew Alphabet and Numbers (2021), and many songs. Sdbiblestudy Church is a Christian Bible study church Alan began in 2016 ( Alan has published hundreds of educational and creative videos on Youtube and Odysee ( Alan’s books are available for purchase at


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