Harte has been accused of excessive sentimentality in his writings. He's sentimental? Excessively? Give specific examples from this story.Harte who has been called the “Father of all local color...

Harte has been accused of excessive sentimentality in his writings. He's sentimental? Excessively? Give specific examples from this story.

Harte who has been called the “Father of all local color Western stories, “has been accused of excessive sentimentality in his writings. Is “The Outcasts of Poker Flats” sentimental? Excessively so? Give specific examples to support your argument

Asked on by peluza74

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The best example of what might be considered excessive sentimentality is seen in the characters of Tom (the Innocent) and Piney Woods. They are almost too good to be true, selfless and kind and innocent in every way. Those around them are also moved to do uncharacteristic things, such as Mr. Oakhurst returning his winnings from the boy and the Duchess starving herself so the girls would have a chance to live. They just don't seem real.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

At the time that he wrote "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," people were not used to the kindly saloon women as in the TV series Gunsmoke, nor were they much beyond looking past appearances, so Harte was criticized for portraying Mother Shipton and the Duchess and Oakhurst in positive lights, calling the characters "improper."

There does seem to be sentimentality evident in Harte's story; however, it may be a bit hyperbolic in order to convey that even people on the outskirts of "moral society," like Hester Prynne of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, are capable of virtuous behavior.

gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Well, for something to be judged excessive, you need to provide a sense of the standard you're using to make such a judgment. Something similar is true regarding sentimentality.

 

As far as an example, consider the end of the story: " And pulseless and cold, with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in his heart, though still calm as in life, beneath the snow lay he who was at once the strongest and yet the weakest of the outcasts of Poker Flat."
That description is pretty sentimental. It jerks the reader in a number of directions, piling adjective on adjective and image on image, and quite literally takes you to extremes: he is the strongest and the weakest at once. So, sentimental, yes. Extreme, yes. Excessive? I don't think so. I enjoy excess.

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