The Outcasts of Poker Flat Questions and Answers
by Bret Harte

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Why are the outcasts thrown out of Poker Flat?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of the story, a notorious gambler named Mr. John Oakhurst is preparing to leave Poker Flat after a secret committee has decided to rid the town of "improper persons." Recently, Poker Flat has suffered the loss of several thousand dollars, two valuable horses, and a prominent citizen. Poker Flat's secret committee feels determined to change the atmosphere of their lawless town by banishing known outlaws and objectionable characters. The secret committee has also executed two of the town's most notorious criminals. Mr. Oakhurst is banished from Poker Flat because he is a successful gambler, who has won significant amounts of money from the community members on more than one occasion. The Dutchess and Mother Shipton are promiscuous women, who are both exiled from Poker Flat because they are well-known prostitutes. Uncle Billy is the fourth outcast, who is exiled for being a thief and alcoholic.

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The outcasts are thrown out of the town of Poker Flat because they are the undesirables of the town.  

Duchess, despite what her name implies, is not high class royalty in any way.  She is the town prostitute; therefore, she is deemed a seedy character that should be expelled from the town.  

John Oakhurst is a professional gambler.  By all indications, he is a calm and impassive gentleman.  My guess is that he won his poker games one time too many, and the losers wanted him gone.  

Mother Shipton is an undesirable, because she is more than likely the madam of Duchess.  Whether or not that is true can be debated, but Mother Shipton is cast out because of her close association with a known prostitute.  

Uncle Billy is a confirmed drunk.  He's a suspected thief too, but what is absolutely true is that he is selfish to the core.  He escaped the coming storm and took the group's horses and supplies.  

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