the outcast of poker flat summary

"The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte is an 1869 story about four troublemakers who are banished from the California gold-mining town of Poker Flat. With the narrator’s final reference to Oakhurst as the “strongest and yet the weakest” of the exiles from Poker Flat, the reader is meant to feel the similar tragedy and inevitability of his death.

Here, personification collides with allusion to signify the end of a storm meant to cleanse the Earth of sin, an ironic note with which to close the story, as the characters are only entirely purified when the snow has killed them.

She dies quietly, and the group turns somber. Deeper into the woods, the rescuers stumble upon Oakhurst’s body. Poker Flat has suffered a major blow to its reputation and sense of stability.

When the group reaches the … The Outcasts of Poker Flat e-text contains the full text of The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Bret Harte. The group later meets two newlyweds, who help them take shelter in a storm. Copyright © 1999 - 2020 GradeSaver LLC. The other exiles are two prostitutes, known as the Duchess and Mother Shipton, and a thief called Uncle Billy.

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A group of armed men, meant specifically to intimidate Oakhurst, marches the outcasts out of Poker Flat. “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” opens as John Oakhurst, a gambler (and a minor character from Harte’s earlier “. In "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," Bret Harte plays the irony of the supposedly righteous do-gooders of the town off against the sincerity revealed by the outcasts in their extremity as they are... will help you with any book or any question. The term Regionalism usually refers to the sketch or short story that focuses on specific features of a particular region.

The core story of “The Outcasts of Poker Flat”—a group of travelers get stranded in the snowy mountains, rations run low, and nearly everyone dies—feels reminiscent of the story of the Donner Party, a group of American pioneers who made the long trek … For example, the narrator introduces the reader to the story by describing the "Sabbath lull" that Oakhurst notices before he's exiled, and then by letting us in on Oakhurst's internal dialogue, "I reckon they’re after somebody...likely it’s me."

When the outcasts are trapped by a snowstorm, Oakhurst assumes leadership of the group.

resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel. Several men on the committee have lost money to Oakhurst, and they are irate. His premonition is correct, as a secret committee has determined, in its local prejudice, to rid the community of certain undesirable people. Simson provides an accordion and a copy of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad (750 b.c.e.

Of course, his reliance on luck is ultimately complicated by his decision to take his own life, an act of free will.

In turn, Piney dies next to the Duchess, and they are made morally indistinguishable from one another, despite their distinct identities as innocent and guilty at the start of the story. The Outcasts of Poker Flat Poker Flat: A Real Ghost Town Although the eponymous puritanical pioneer town of Bret Harte 's story is a product of the author's imagination, Poker Flat was a real town in northern California. (including. Although Oakhurst advises against stopping, the others, under the influence of liquor, refuse to move.

It did her good, she privately informed the Duchess. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.

It was one of two short stories which brought the author national attention.

The Outcasts of Poker Flat essays are academic essays for citation. Our summaries and analyses are written by experts, and your questions are answered by real teachers. The town’s “moral atmosphere” has changed, and Oakhurst knows that the town is “after somebody.”.

The irony of such an ending is enforced by the complicated nature of guilt and innocence running through the story’s second half, where Oakhurst serves as a kind of moral middle ground between innocent and improper. For the first time since he became a gambler, he is lonely and depressed. Slowly, however, their rations dwindle, and the group faces the harsh reality that they may not make it to their destinations.

Even Tom’s accordion seems worried by their predicament, producing music in “fitful spasms and long-drawn gasps.” Only when the party has died does Harte compare the ceasing snow to a more peaceful image—“white-winged birds”—therein calling to mind the white dove sent to signify the end of the purifying flood in the Bible.

Mother Shipton begins to fade rapidly, and on the 10th day, she pulls Oakhurst aside and privately tells him that she’s been starving herself, saving her rations so that Piney can live a little longer.

As the days go by, Mother Shipton dies of starvation, as she tries to save food for ‘the child,’ Piney. using irony to describe the town's new committee reaction to local crime as a "spasm of virtuous reaction," and indeed "quite as lawless and ungovernable as any of the acts that had provoked it"), and even explicitly passing judgement in the first person ("I regret to say that some of these were ladies").

Got it! They have lost a lot of money and the morals of people are thought to be sinking. Once Uncle Billy has doomed his companions, the foreshadowing that is central to the story kicks into high gear. The Innocent reports that he has an extra mule with provisions, and that he has located a roofless cabin. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does.

They have lost a lot of money, and worry that people's morals are sinking. The Question and Answer section for The Outcasts of Poker Flat is a great She reveals to Oakhurst that she has saved her share of the rations from the last week so that the girl, Piney Woods, will have a better chance to survive, and then she dies. The pair are headed to Poker Flat to elope. There are four outcasts in the group: a young lady who is “familiarly known as ‘ The Duchess,’” a man called Uncle Billy who is drunkard and “suspected sluice-robber,” and woman who has somehow earned the nickname Mother Shipton. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts.

Although the sun initially appears “regretful,” Harte eventually compares the snow to a “prison” via metaphor. In 1850, he and three others are banished from the town. He sends Simson on the difficult journey to Poker Flat in an attempt to get help.

The rest of the group has no other choice than to wait for ten days until they run out of provisions. One of the first instances of this foreshadowing comes in the form of the bone castanets that Tom the Innocent plays, which become particularly eerie alongside the refrain of the song that the party sings: “I’m proud to live in the service of the Lord, And I’m bound to die in His army.” Later, Oakhurst repeats this refrain privately in conversation with Tom in order to emphasize the fatal implications of the second half of the verse, “And I’m bound to die in His army.”. This conflict between objectivity and subjectivity, summed up by the story's last line ("beneath the snow lay he who was at once the strongest and yet the weakest of the outcasts of Poker Flat"), fits into the story's core themes surrounding the complicated nature of sin and purity, guilt and innocence, free will and fate.

Not affiliated with Harvard College. Oakhurst knows that camping is a bad idea—they don’t have food or supplies to sustain their journey.

Learn more. This is a fascinating story that says a lot about how society judges people and the true nature of heroism. Two men are executed, and four alleged reprobates are banished, including Oakhurst.

What acts of kindness do the Duchess and Mother Shipton do when Piney arrives? Tom is thrilled to see Oakhurst and excitedly introduces his fiancée, Piney Woods, to the group. Both Mother Shipton and the Duchess take a nurturing interest towards Piney. The gambler assumes that they will all die soon unless something is done.

Like the alluded-to Achilles, John Oakhurst serves as a tragic character that occupies a fatal middle ground between innocent and guilty, weak and strong.

The group takes Tom up on his offer and makes camp. Days later, “pitying fingers” dust the snow off of their faces.

He had been shot by his own gun. The search party also happens upon the makeshift grave of John Oakhurst, marked by a playing card upon which Oakhurst has written an epitaph blaming his death on "a streak of bad luck."

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