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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

by Bret Harte

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Why are the citizens of Poker Flat hypocrites in "The Outcasts of Poker Flat"?

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Many of the citizens of Poker Flat are hypocritical because it is only after the townspeople have a change of luck and monetary status that they become moral.

After having "suffered the loss of several thousand dollars, two valuable horses, and a prominent citizen," a secret committee has met and made the decision "to rid the town of all improper persons." As long as the residents have been winning money and enjoying themselves, the gambler, the madam and her girls, along with a suspected sluice robber have been allowed to remain in the town. Now, suddenly, Poker Flat experiences "a spasm of virtuous reaction" after these certain losses. In fact, one faction wants to prevent Mr. Oakhurst, the gambler, from leaving town with the money he has won from them, but another faction, who has profited from Oakhurst's stay, overrules the others in order to retain certain winnings.

After the "deported wickedness of Poker Flat" are escorted outside the borders of the town, where they are summarily informed that they must not try to return because they may lose their lives. When all those who have escorted them out of town depart, only Oakhurst remains silent; the others hurl curses at the hypocrites. For the next settlement is some distance, and it requires difficult travel over a steep mountain range known as the Sierra Nevadas. Since they are in eastern California later in the year, temperatures in the mountains will be wintry, and their survival seems dubious. Not surprisingly, the knowledge that they have endangered the survival of the exiled company does not appear to bother the newly "moral" people of Poker Flat.

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