What is the symbolism of yellow in "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The colour yellow is traditionally related to the condition of cowardice, and we can see from the title that yellow is very important from the way that Crane has chosen to call the home that the bride and the marshal are heading to. However, the symbolism of yellow and how it relates to cowardice is shown to be linked to the main theme of power shifts. At the end of the story, the marshal and Scratchy have a contest of power, and this is interestingly won by the marshal because he deliberately refuses to engage in Scratchy's "game" of power. Note how Scratchy responds to this apparent surrender:

He was not a student of chivalry; it was merely that in the presence of this foreign condition he was a simple child of the earlier plains. He picked up his starboard revolver, and, placing both weapons in their holsters, he went away. His feet made funnel-shaped tracks in the heavy sand.

Scratchy's retreat thus reveals his own moral cowardice and bluster. Power relationships are shown to be suddenly reversed, and the symbolism of yellow can thus be seen to refer to this power relationship and how it suddenly changes.


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