The heroism displayed by a number of characters in the story often surprises us. The protagonist, John Oakhurst, appears to have all the characteristics of a conventional hero, and yet when the chips are down he doesn't demonstrate anything like the kind of self-sacrifice of some of the other members of the party. That's not to say he's a coward; he shows himself to be incredibly calm, cool, and collected in the face of his imminent death. He also wants to protect his companions and keep their spirits up, hence his lies about Uncle Billy's going for provisions when in actual fact he'd stolen what few provisions the party had left.
At the same time, he doesn't undergo quite the same kind of transformation as, say, Mother Shipton, who literally sacrifices her own life to save Piney Woods. Mother Shipton is a prostitute, and as such, one of society's outcasts. Yet in the midst of great hardship, she shows just how artificial society's evaluation of individual character can often be. Her heroism is dynamic, going above and beyond what is expected of her, whereas the quiet, philosophical Oakhurst, consciously set apart from the rest of the group, acts as he always has.