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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At heart, the gambler John Oakhurst, the main character in Bret Harte's short story, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," is an old softy. He is an honorable man with sympathetic leanings toward those around him. When the outcasts are forced from the town, he tries to console the others and keep up their spirits when he knows their chance of survival after the snowstorm is slim. When Uncle Billy steals the supplies and horses, Oakhurst refuses to divulge the real truth in hopes of making the others' final hours more hopeful. He also has had a string of bad luck which follows him to the end, when he saves a bullet for himself to avoid death in the cold.

ladylala777 | Student

he is goodhearted, but as a gambler he is always calculating, reserved. he does everything he can to help the others as well as himself, but in the end he assesses the situation, what he is best at, and determines that there is no chance of survival. so, he shoots himself.

his greatest strength, therefore, is also his downfall, because it means he has no hope. hope is irrational, but it can make people keep on living, because the impossible (in this case, survival) might just happen. however, oakhurst does not see it this way and thus eliminates the possibility

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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

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