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Harte, Bret. "Tennessee's Partner".


Set in the village of Sandy Bar. Tennessee, gambler and thief, is captured and tried at a court of justice. He refuses to answer any questions. Tennessee's partner (who remains nameless in the whole story) appears at the court on behalf of Tennessee. This idiosyncratic character is short and stout, of quaint appearance, and always keeps on wiping his red face with a handkerchief. He offers to pay for Tennessee, but is refused. Thinking that he has not offered enough, he shakes hands with Tennessee and retires.

Tennessee is found guilty and hanged. His Partner comes with a cart to carry the "diseased" as he says. Onlookers follow the Partner's invitation and walk behind the cart with the body as if they were a formal funeral procession. The Partner buries Tennessee into a grave dug in his garden and holds a speech on the necessity of bringing Tennessee home when he is not in natural condition to come by himself (often had to fetch him home before when Tennessee was too drunk to walk).

The Partner is freed from any suspicion of sharing guilt with Tennessee, only his general sanity is doubted. He falls gravely ill. One night he insists on going to fetch Tennessee so that he would not hurt himself when he is drunk. Suddenly he announces that he sees Tennessee coming toward him completely sober. The narrator concludes: "And so they met".



- a local colour story set in California

- uses vernacular in dialogues

- the narrator shows sympathy and tolerance to his idiosyncratic characters

- theme: affectionate companionship in which one tolerates the faults of the other

- a strong sense of humour ensures that the narrative does not slip into sentimentality

- shows that also simple and not very intelligent characters are fully capable of selflessness, personal sacrifice, and deeply humane feelings


  • Author

    Harte, Bret. (1836 - 1902).
  • Full Title

    "Tennessee's Partner".
  • First Published

    In: Overland Monthly. San Francisco: 1869.
  • Form

    Short story.

Works Cited

Harte, Bret. "Tennessee's Partner". (1869). In: Bret Harte's Gold Rush. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1996.


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