What is the climax of "The Outcasts of Poker Flat"?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The climax of "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" comes during the final hours of the women's lives as Piney and the Duchess huddle together before freezing to death in the snow. Mother Shipton has already died, starving herself to death in the hope that her untouched provisions will extend the other women's lives until they can be rescued. Eventually, without the strength to keep the fire burning, the Duchess places her head upon Piney's shoulders and the two die in an angelic embrace. When Tom returns with the search party, he finds that the women have

... slept all that day and the next, nor did they waken when voices and footsteps broke the silence of the camp. And when pitying fingers brushed the snow from their wan faces, you could scarcely have told from the equal peace that dwelt upon them which was she that had sinned. Even the law of Poker Flat recognized this, and turned away, leaving them still locked in each other's arms.

Oakhurst's own death, described in the final paragraphs, serves as the denouement to the story.