The Outcasts of Poker Flat Questions and Answers
by Bret Harte

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What is the meaning of a "Sabbath lull" in the short story The Outcasts of Poker Flats?

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The word "Sabbath" is used interchangeably with "Sunday" (although they are actually different). The word "lull" means a sleepy, soothing calm. So "Sabbath lull" means the kind of sleepy, soothing quiet that reigns on Sunday morning, although this imagery and allusion are now out-dated. "Sabbath lull" occurs in the beginning of the story and sets the atmosphere of the story while establishing a sense of suspense and danger, because in Poker Flats quiet church-going is not natural and busy activity in the streets is natural.

The allusion to the atmosphere of town on a Sunday morning calls up imagery now out-dated and less well known in America. It calls up the image of the quiet that descends on a town when no work, no play, no visiting occurs because all citizens are preparing to go or are on their way to go or have gone to church and are either sitting half-dozing through a sermon or sitting eating Sunday dinner after the sermon. So the imagery evoked by the phrase "Sabbath lull" is one of...

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