Thursday, January 18, 2007

Alarming Oaths

Journal No. 3
English 48B
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I Chose: Bret Harte

From the short story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat"

I. "The philosophic Oakhurst alone remained silent. He listened calmly to...the alarming oaths that seemed to be bumped out of Uncle Billy as he rode forward."

II. In the middle of a procession of mules, horses, and refugees, Mr. Oakhurst is quietly, almost involuntarily, observing the actions of his fellow outcasts. He hears Mother Shipton ranting and raving about having been thrown out of town. He then hears the Duchess dramatically state over and over again that she will die in the road. Finally, he hears Uncle Billy swearing under each strained breath as he "bumps" forward.

III. Mr. Harte has just made this story more and more hilarious. The image of Uncle Billy (who, by the way, has about three teeth left in his head and hasn't bathed in weeks!) "bumping" along on his horse and trying to swear at the same time practically has me rolling. Uncle Billy is nothing pretty to look at, or smell for that matter. The language that Harte uses in this quote gives the reader much detail, beyond the direct meaning of the words. I can see him sweating profusely, dirt smudged all over his sunken cheeks, and a grimace against the sun that looks as though it's about to produce tears. The man is miserable. He was unhappy before he got kicked out of Poker Flat and now he's just right down pissed! A couple of sentences later, Harte explains that Uncle Billy "included the party in one sweeping anathema." Dang rascals! They're all just a bunch of no-gooders!


Scott said...

20 points. Your description of Harte's description is pretty darn funny too.