The Outcasts of Poker Flat Questions and Answers
by Bret Harte

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How does the Duchess change during the course of the story in "The Outcasts of Poker Flat"?

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At the beginning of the story, the Duchess is portrayed as a sinful prostitute, who is exiled from Poker Flat along with John Oakhurst, Mother Shipton, and Uncle Billy. On their journey from Poker Flat, the Duchess is extremely melodramatic and theatrical as she mourns her unfortunate situation. She continually cries and her overdramatic behavior annoys her fellow travelers. After the group of misfits stops to set up camp, they are joined by Tom "The Innocent" Stinson and his fifteen-year-old fiancee, Piney.

Once the young, naive couple joins the party, the Duchess's demeanor and attitude dramatically changes. She does not reveal her sordid past or terrible reputation to Piney and immediately warms up to the young girl. The Duchess stops lamenting her situation and listens to Piney with "interest and animation." When she assumes care of Piney, she then becomes more cheerful than she had been at the start of their journey. The Duchess behaves politely in front of Piney and acts as a...

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