Who is the most admirable in Bret Harte's "The Outcasts of Poker Flat"?  

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wes-smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several of the characters could be considered the most admirable in the story. It could be argued that Oakhurst is the most admirable because of his "philosophical calmness." Oakhurst has the foresight to know that they should not camp for the night but should instead keep moving. Unlike the others, Oakhurst does not drink. Oakhurst also places provisions outside of the tent and sends Tommy to get help; thus he is thinking of others. Although Oakhurst is said to be the "strongest," he is also called the "weakest." Even though Oakhurst knows it would be best to keep moving, he is unable to convince the others and ultimately stays with them. Finally, Oakhurst commits suicide, which goes against his philosophy of holding on to your cards until the end. Thus, it is hard to see Oakhurst as the most admirable because he breaks his own principles in taking his life.

A strong case could be made for Mother Shipton. Although she runs a brothel and has rough language (both of which were accepted by the society of Poker Flat until recently), she is a motherly figure, as seen by her name. She protects the "children" (Piney and Tom), and even starves herself so that Piney will have more food and might survive. Unlike Oakhurst whose death can be seen as giving up, Mother Shipton's death is a sacrifice for others. This selfless act makes her quite admirable.

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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

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