The Outcasts of Poker Flat Questions and Answers
by Bret Harte

The Outcasts of Poker Flat book cover
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How do Tom Simpson and Piney Woods bring out the best in other characters?

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Because Tom and Piney are young, naive and trusting, the two of them touch the hearts of John Oakhurst, The Duchess and Mother Shipton. When the young lovers encounter the outcasts, they misread the situation and believe it to be a social outing, a picnic, in fact, and are enthusiastic to join in their fun. None of the three outcasts, a too-successful poker player who has outstayed his welcome, and a prostitute and her madam, want to admit the unsavory truth about themselves or their other traveling companion, Uncle Billy the drunkard and thief.

The purity of the love of Piney Woods and Tom Simson stands in stark contrast to the way that The Duchess and Mother Shipton have earned their living. And Tom Simson's guileless appreciation of how John Oakhurst has magnanimously let him off the hook for a gambling debt he couldn't afford shows that Oakhurst is not a merciless con man. In fact, Bret Harte could be said to be inviting a debate about who should be considered an immoral person: a...

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