In "The Outcasts of Poker Flat", are there any heroes or heroines in the story? If so, who are they and what make them heroic?

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this story by Bret Harte, there are definitely heroes and heroines.  The main character, John Oakhurst, is a hero. He had once won $40 from Tom Simson and then returned it because Simson was so young and naive.  When he realizes the dire situation they are in after waking and realizing that most of their provisions have been stolen and the snows have begun, he doesn't want to tell Simson and his fiancee, Piney, because he doesn't want them to be frightened.  Later, he persuades Simson to hike to Poker Flat for help and then he gathers firewood for the group.  He works to save the group both physically and spiritually.  The prostitutes, the Duchess and Mother Shipton, are also heroic.  Mother Shipton saved her food rations for Piney and died of starvation.  The Duchess held Piney in her arms as the two froze to death.  Neither woman told Piney that they were prostitutes, allowing the young girl to keep her innocent ideas about people.  That sort of self-sacrifice is heroic.  In the end, Oakhurst is not a hero because he chose to end his life rather than endure a slower death while hoping for a chance to be rescued.

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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

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