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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

by Bret Harte

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What effect do Tom and Piney have on all the outcasts, excluding Uncle Billy?

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Uncle Billy is not affected by Tom and Piney because he is the worst of the lot.  He is the only one among them who took from people what they were not willing to give and he was a drunkard.  John Oakhurst was a gambler who won too often, the Duchess and Mother Shipton were in the prostitution business, but Uncle Billy stole gold from people who had worked hard to find that gold.  Tom and Piney join the group of outcasts in the mountains.  Tom and Piney are headed toward Poker Flat in order to get married.  They are simple, pure, and naive and those qualities touch the outcasts, except for Uncle Billy who does not have the conscience that the others have.  Tom and Piney think the group is just a group of travelers; they don't see them for the undesirables that the townspeople saw them as.  Mother Shipton and the Duchess are touched by Tom and Piney because Tom and Piney are kind to them.  Tom and Piney make them feel respectable which is something they haven't felt for a long time, if ever.  This endears Tom and Piney to Mother Shipton and to the Duchess.  John Oakhurst is touched by the pair of elopers because he sees their youth and their innocence.  He also knows they need assistance. He is not a bad man, he is just a gambler who reads people's faces very well and so wins more often than most people would like.

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