From the short story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," how could you analyze John Oakhurst's character?

Expert Answers
rowens eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oakhurst is an interesting character. He is called both the strongest and the weakest of the outcasts. Although he had great leadership qualities, it was he who committed suicide and gave up without saving himself or the party.

Throughout the story, he is depicted as a man of strong moral character. Despite his career as a gambler, he is an honest and fair man. These traits are evident in the way he handled Tom's loss to him. Rather than just taking the Innocent's money, he gave it back and warned him against gambling in the future.

Oakhurst shows leadership and intelligence. It is he who first understands the party's terrible predicament. So he does everything he can to protect Tom and Piney: He suggests they move on alone, and when that fails, he rations the food and keeps the order and assumes the largest part of the responsibilities, including the major part of night watch. He is the one who fashions the snow shoes so that Tom can get help. But he knows this is too late. Perhaps if he had sent Tom a day or two earlier, they all might have lived. When he realizes his error and knows that he will not survive until the rescue party arrives, he cuts the firewood for the women.

But he does kill himself. He is too afraid/weak to face a slow death.

So in short, he seems to be a series of contradictions. He is intelligent but too cautious, shrewd but fair, a good leader but a failed leader, strong but weak.

Check the links below for more information on the themes and characters.

Read the study guide:
The Outcasts of Poker Flat

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question