John Oakhurst is a hero, because out of all the outcasts he alone is able to face the reality of his death even though he could have saved himself. After days of snow, Oakhurst realizes that the snow would not let up as they had initially forecast. He therefore makes snowshoes out of a saddle and gives these to Tom Simson with the hope that he can use them to reach Poker Flat to get help for Piney, his fiancé. Afterwards, he makes a kind of epitaph for himself on a “deuce of clubs,” which he pins on a tall pine tree by the gulch, before committing suicide.
Throughout the ill-fated journey, Oakhurst remains the most clearheaded person in the group of Poker Flat deportees. When the rest of the outcasts insist on camping less than halfway through their journey, Oakhurst tries to explain to them the perils of doing this. He says that they lacked the provisions needed for such a rest. However, his advice falls on deaf ears, as his colleagues take to drinking liquor, thereby rendering further travel impossible. Even though he observes “the ominously clouded skies,” he does not desert his fellow outcasts to save his own skin.
Also, Oakhurst displays great maturity during the snow storm that helps to bring the group of people together during their “forced seclusion”. Even when he discovers that Uncle Billy has deserted the travelers in the night, he does not tell this to their new colleagues, Tom Simson and Piney Woods. Though traveling in an opposite direction, they are also “snowed in”.