Upon reading Stephen Crane’s (91) The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky, the initial reaction was surprise. In the climax of the story, there was no gun slinging, no gun shot, and no body dropping on the ground. It seems to be a different kind of Western from those usually read in novels and seen in the movies. Yet, upon a greater examination of the story, it would become clear that Crane is portraying a different kind of Western—one in which he delights his readers and at the same time shows a different face of the men in a western setting (Petry 45).
This paper seeks to look at the short story and look at the metaphors that Crane employed as well as Crane’s portrayal of the changing times in the West. This paper will also look at the setting and the time in the story and relate the development of the story to the underlying changes going on in the story. Crane’s short story does not contain the usual elements of the Western story but he artfully uses the genre to delight people and show the changes going on in the community of Yellow Sky. The Story The story is about the efforts of Jack Potter, the marshal of the town in bringing his new wife to Yellow Sky.
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He went all the way to San Antonio to fetch his wife and transported her via train. Yellow Sky is a frontier town in Texas at a time when the civilization is encroaching upon the environment of the Old West. Crane’s story had the makings of a Western—there was a train, a town in the Old West, the challenges for fights and duels as well as the bar where cowboys gather and drink. By the end of the story, however, Crane does away with the typical idea feature of a Western—the gunfight and seems to proclaim that the end of violent gunfight and duels is at an end.
The story has four parts and it shows the interaction of the character with the environment and the society that he has. Surprisingly, the wife of Jack Potter does not have a name. Although she plays an important part in the story, she seems to represent only the role of women in marriage and in raising a man’s family. The first part of the story shows Jack Potter, without naming him, coming from San Antonio with his wife on a train, the “Great Pullman” traveling throughout Texas. In this section of the story, Crane masterfully shows the lack of orientation of Jack and his wife to the luxury and the elegance of the train.
He portrayed them as follows: “To the minds of the pair, their surroundings reflected the glory of their marriage that morning in San Antonio. This was the environment of their new estate, and the man's face in particular beamed with an elation that made him appear ridiculous to the negro porter. This individual at times surveyed them from afar with an amused and superior grin. ” (Crane 92). Clearly, the couple appeared to be simple compared with the luxurious train that they were traveling in that even the negro porter looked at them with disdain.
As the train nears Yellow Sky, Jack Porter becomes anxious and restless. Apparently, he feels guilty over leaving the town without much of an announcement of where he is going and what his purposes in leaving was. There appear to be two possibilities as to the guilt of Jack. One is that marshals of a town may not marry due to the necessities of the job that they have to perform, or that he has gone “headlong over all the social hedges” (93) by not informing his friends and his family as to his getting married.
This also explains why in the story, Jack Porter leads his wife quietly to the place where they will stay. Crane then shows the two adversaries—Scratchy Wilson and Jack Porter through the eyes of the six men and the Eastern drummer at the Gentleman Saloon. As the drummer recounts a story, the door of the Saloon opens with another man saying that Scratchy Wilson is drunk and is looking for his enemy, Jack Porter. This incident builds up the expectation that some shooting will occur in the vicinity. Scratchy is further introduced as one of the last member of the gang to hang out in Yellow Sky.
Scratchy then appears in the third part of the story and he is portrayed complete with the gun and swaying gait that cowboys have in Western stories. Stories set in the American West have already achieved the level of legend and portrays elements of heroic literature (Cortese 122). Scratchy then begins shooting in the area, which is tantamount to issuing a challenge against anyone who cares for a gunfight. He then walks from the Saloon to Jack Porter’s house and issues a warning and expletives against Jack.
The last part of the story is where Scratchy and Jack Porter meet. It is situated near the house of Jack and the wife of the latter is in plain sight of Scratchy. Scratchy then challenges Jack for a gunfight. Jack responds by saying that he has no gun. Scratchy rages against Jack and says “don’t take me for no kid” (Crane 98). He was still expecting Jack to answer his challenge for a gunfight. Jack then talks with Scratchy, saying that he does not really have a gun. Jack Porter then made the admission that he has no gun because he has married.
Because of the suddenness of it all, Scratchy could not deal with it and simply walked away and declared that “it’s all off now” (99). Works Cited Cortese, James. “Bourgeois Myth and Anti-Myth: The Western Hero of the Fifties,” SubStance, 5. 15 (1976), 122-132. Crane, Stephen. “Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” Literature: The Human Experience, 8th edn. Ed. Richard Abcarian and Marvin Klotz. Boston: Bedford, 2002. (91–99). Petry, Alice Hall. "Crane’s the Bride Comes to Yellow Sky. ” The Explicator, 42. 1 (1983) 45-47.
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