The Outcasts of Poker Flat Questions and Answers
by Bret Harte

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How was John Oakhurst heroic in The Outcasts of Poker Flat?

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I would generally argue against John Oakhurst being considered heroic; however, if you have to give support to him being a hero character, I would concentrate on his ability to quickly analyze a dire situation and prioritize what must be done in order to save lives. Oakhurst knows that the group should not stop for their overnight stay, but he decides to stick with the group. He absolutely could have done what Uncle Billy did and leave the group to fend for itself. Oakhurst doesn't do that. His actions at this point are quite selfless. That is a heroic trait because he works for the good and benefit of people other than himself. He also decides that Tom should be the one to return for help instead of himself. This keeps Oakhurst in a dangerous situation that he knows he isn't likely to survive. These actions can be used to support the idea that Oakhurst is a heroic character in the story, but his giving up and killing himself is hardly heroic in my opinion.

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