The Outcasts of Poker Flat Questions and Answers
by Bret Harte

The Outcasts of Poker Flat book cover
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What has the secret committee of Poker Flat decided to do? Why?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Poker Flat has a reputation of being a rather lawless, ungovernable settlement where criminals, gamblers, and prostitutes frequent and make their living. However, Poker Flat has recently experienced a "spasm of virtuous reaction" after suffering the loss of several thousand dollars, two valuable horses, and a prominent citizen. In the third paragraph of the short story, Harte writes that a secret committee is formed and makes the decision to rid Poker Flat of "all improper persons."

Essentially, the secret committee decides to execute and banish all criminals, shady characters, and prostitutes from town. At the beginning of the story, the secret committee has already hanged two contemptible men from the boughs of a sycamore in the gulch and are preparing to banish four notorious troublemakers. These troublemakers are identified as John Oakhurst, Uncle Billy, the Duchess, and Mother Shipton. Several armed men accompany the four troublemakers to the outskirts of the settlement and banish them from Poker Flat. The four individuals exiled from Poker Flat are considered the outcasts in the story and are forced to brave severe elements on their journey.

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cneukam1379 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the third paragraph of the story, Bret Harte states, "A secret committee had determined to rid the town of all improper persons."  These "improper persons" include Mr. John Oakhurst, a gambler; the Duchess, a prostitute; Mother Shipton, a witch; and Uncle Billy, a thief and drunk.  The committee made this sudden decision because "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."  By expelling these "improper persons" and hanging two more for their crimes, the town leaders were hoping to improve the reputation of the town as well as perhaps settle a few disagreements with the likes of someone like Oakhurst who won too many hands of poker and too much of the leaders' money!

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robbiebice | Student

What has the secret committee of poker flat decide to do?why?