How do you know the town in Bret Harte's "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" is hypocritical?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Readers know the residents of Poker Flat are hypocritical fairly early on in the story. We are told Mr. Oakhurst notices a moral shift in the town from the previous day. We are not told what kind of moral shift until a few lines later. Readers are then told the townspeople are now influenced by Biblical morals they normally ignore.  

There was a Sabbath lull in the air which, in a settlement unused to Sabbath influences, looked ominous.

What is very hypocritical of the townspeople of Poker Flat is they do not assume this high moral standing until they lose quite a bit of money and property to Oakhurst, Shipton, and the others. As long as those characters do not hurt Poker Flat, the townspeople are perfectly happy with the amoral standards of the visitors and the town itself.  

It had lately suffered the loss of several thousand dollars, two valuable horses, and a prominent citizen. It was experiencing a spasm of virtuous reaction, quite as lawless and ungovernable as any of the acts that had provoked it.

The hypocrisy continues as the townspeople pass judgment on the exiled group. The group may not return to Poker Flat. If they do, they risk their lives. Of course, by sending the group into the wilderness with minimal supplies, the townspeople are putting Oakhurst and the others at risk, too. For being people of such a "moral" town, Poker Flat's residents do not seem too worried about sending people to their likely death. That's hypocritical.

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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

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