The Outcasts of Poker Flat Questions and Answers
by Bret Harte

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Did John Oakhurst do the right thing by making Tom Simson wait so long to go for help in "The Outcasts of Poker Flats" by Bret Harte?

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When a question asks whether an action is right or wrong, the answer is generally going to be subjective. That means, of course, that two people who read the same story might have different answers to the same question. The best I can do is justify my position, though you are certainly free to disagree for your own reasons--and both of us can be correct.

John Oakhurst is a gambler who, along with several other "improper persons," has been evicted by the fine, upstanding citizens of a town called Poker Flats. Ironically, this town is known for its Christian citizenry, yet they sent off this band of so-called sinners with few supplies and just as winter is imminent. Three of the four, the readers discover, are as moral and self-sacrificing as any of the Christians in Poker Flat. The one true miscreant in the group is the drunkard known as Uncle Billy. The four exiles have taken shelter in an empty cabin, and soon they are joined by a young couple who have run off to be together. Tom Stimson and Piney Woods are lovely, kind, and innocent, and they spend the night in the cabin.

In the morning, Oakhurst wakes first and realizes two things: it has begun to snow and Uncle Billy is gone. The old drunkard took his first opportunity to run off with the mules and nearly all the supplies the little group had. They have enough provisions to last ten days, if they are careful, but it is snowing. In fact, it is snowing a lot. Oakhurst is unable to follow Uncle Billy's tracks, even though he could not have been gone for very long.

A week passes and the snow does not abate. Supplies are running low, and Mother Shipton dies starving herself in order for Piney to have more to eat....

(The entire section contains 628 words.)

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