The Outcasts Of Poker Flat by Bret Harte, 1869
The magic trick:
Bringing the Oakhurst character to the fore in order to better highlight the ensemble cast
The template is tried and true. Bring an eclectic group of people together, isolate them, challenge them, and see how they adapt. Harte works the concept perfectly, manipulating the reader’s emotions like a champ.
The key is in pulling the Oakhurst character to the fore. This allows the reader to see the other characters from his perspective, to compare and contrast the other characters against him, and, in the end, to enjoy a nice bit of irony on which to reflect.
And that’s quite a trick on Harte’s part.
“Luck,” continued the gambler, reflectively, “is a mighty queer thing. All you know about it for certain is that it’s bound to change. And it’s finding out when it’s going to change that makes you. We’ve had a streak of bad luck since we left Poker Flat, – you come along, and slap you get into it, too. If you can hold your cards right along you’re all right.”