In "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," why doesnt John Oakhurst tell the others the truth about what Uncle Billy had done?
The stoic gambler John Oakhurst shows the most class of all the members of the party in Bret Harte's short story, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat." He alone remains silent when the group is forced out of the town, and he maintains this stance after Uncle Billy deserts them in the middle of the night with the team of mules. When he discovers the mules gone,
He did not waken the sleepers. The Innocent slumbered peacefully, with a smile on his good-humored, freckled face; the virgin Piney slept beside her frailer sisters as sweetly as though attended by celestial guardians; and Mr. Oakhurst, drawing his blanket over his shoulders, stroked his mustaches and waited for the dawn.
He soon realized that the group was "snowed in," and that their chances for survival without the mules was now slim. Uncle Billy had not stolen the food supply, so Oakhurst decided to give the remaining group a bit of hope by claiming that
"you can wait till Uncle Billy gets back with provisions." For some occult reason, Mr. Oakhurst could not bring himself to disclose Uncle Billy's rascality, and so offered the hypothesis that he had wandered from the camp and had accidentally stampeded the animals. He dropped a warning to the Duchess and Mother Shipton, who of course knew the facts of their associate's defection. "They'll find out the truth about us all when they find out anything," he added, significantly, "and there's no good frightening them now."
Oakhurst did not want to alarm the two Innocents--Tom and Piney--with the bad news. By keeping quiet, Oakhurst would at least give the non-outcasts a few more days together before their inevitable demise.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial