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There are striking examples of realism in Stephen Crane's description of the bride as she is riding on the train with her new husband.
The bride was not pretty, nor was she very young. . . . It was quite apparent that she had cooked, and that she expected to cook, dutifully.
Crane could have made the bride young and beautiful if he had wanted to. But his heroine was representing the women who came out to the West in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and those who were young and beautiful did not have to face the dangers and harsh living conditions of the Wild West in order to find husbands. Jack Potter's bride is a realistic representative of the kind of women who were migrating to the West because they wanted to get married and hadn't succeeded in doing so in their home towns. There was a tremendous shortage of women in the West, and it became common knowledge that a reasonably young and reasonably attractive woman would get swooped up immediately if she relocated. The big trains were making it easy for women to travel in safety and comfort. The days of wagon trains and hostile Indians were over. That is why the two principal characters are introduced riding on the great Pullman. The story is about changing times, and women were bringing great changes with them. They would naturally be having children, and they would be wanting homes, schools, churches, and all the other amenities of cities like St. Louis. It is significant that Jack Potter represents law and order and his bride represents civilization--both traveling westward at high speed.
Jack Potter's bride had gotten as far as San Antonio on her own, and Jack had gone east from Yellow Sky to meet her. Crane does not say whether Jack met her in San Antonio by accident or whether they had first made contact through correspondence. There were a great many "mail order brides" who came West to get married without having seen their future husbands except perhaps in a photograph and without their future husbands having seen them except through a photograph which may or may not have been of the woman who sent it. It seems most likely that Jack Potter would have gone to San Antonio to meet his future bride for the first time, in which case there must have been some prearrangement by them or for them.
It is not quite clear why Crane says
It was quite apparent that she had cooked, and that she expected to cook, dutifully.
It could only be that her hands were red and rough from handling cooking utensils and washing dishes. The suggestion is that she was working in a restaurant in San Antonio. In any case, one of the important things that women were bringing to the West was good cooking. Men were going to be civilized by cakes, cookies, pies, casseroles, omelets, and other niceties.
The marriage between Jack and his bride is realistic rather than romantic. He needs a wife. She needs a husband. They are not madly in love but perfectly satisfied with one another. They will probably have a long and satisfactory marriage. They are both realists. They have to be.
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