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Find these two regionalist elements in the story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat."Find and...

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gellarmon | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 26, 2011 at 6:39 AM via web

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Find these two regionalist elements in the story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat."

Find and explain one example of each of these two regionalist elements in the story: 1. Euphemisms: the substitution of a mild, indirect or vague expression for one thought to be too harsh or blunt. 2. Comic Irony: the use of a word or a phrase to suggest the opposite of what is meant, emphasizing the difference between appearance and reality.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 26, 2011 at 7:25 AM (Answer #1)

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Much like some of Mark Twain's narratives, Bret Harte's "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" is a Western story which employs regionalisms, expressions that are distinctly Western.  In addition, he wrily makes use of euphemisms to suggest the hypocrisy of the residents of Poker Flat.  One such euphemism occurs in the sixth paragraph of Harte's narrative in which the narrator refers to the "certain objectionable characters" whom the residents blame for their misfortunes.  These characters are the gambler, Mr. Oakhurst; a woman suspected of being a witch, Mother Shipton; Uncle Billy, a drunkard and a "sluice robber," a thief who takes gold from long troughs used for sifting gold; and a prostitute called Duchess. This group is euphemistically termed, "the deported wickedness of Poker Flat."

An example of comic irony occurs in the eighth paragraph in which the narrator describes the place to which the outcasts must migrate:

The road to Sandy Bar--a camp that, not having as yet experienced the regenerative influences of Poker Flat....

This phrase means that Sandy Bar has not yet lost enough money to gamblers and such that it has "regenerated" its moral code as has Poker Flat. This allusion to the "regenerative influences" refers to the "emigrants" who are expelled from Poker Flat.  Here Bret Harte makes fun of the "spasm of virtuous reaction" [par.3] (also comic irony) which is brought about by the financial losses dealt the residents who have engaged in activites with the witch, prostitute, or gambler. The loss of money, etc. has caused the townspeople to angrily seek revenge against these immoral persons by expulsion from town; that is, the hypocritically sanctimonious expulsion of the people who have simply taken the money  they have of free choice spent on their own greed or prurient desires. 

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 26, 2011 at 7:11 AM (Answer #2)

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EUPHEMISM.  The most obvious euphemism used in the short story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" was the description of the crime of which Mother Shipton and the Duchess are accused.

... their impropriety was professional...

This is a very socially proper way of saying that the two women were being banished for the crime of prostitution.

COMIC IRONY.  One example of this comes when the outcasts are snowed in at the cabin.

Mr. Oakhurst listened with quiet satisfaction. Most especially was he interested in the fate of “Ash-heels,” as the Innocent persisted in denominating the “swift-footed Achilles.”

Tom's unintentional yet unknowledgable pronunciation of Achilles is both humorous and ironic, since it is Oakhurst's own Achilles heel--that of soft-heartedness--that results in his fatal situation.

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