In "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky," how does Stephen Crane both utilize and satirize the traits of the Western story?
In many stories set in the American West, the main character, often a sheriff, has a life-threatening confrontation, usually with a "bad guy." He will be a frontier type, taciturn, brave, and resolute in the face of grave danger. Crane both embraces and satirizes this type with Jack Potter. Jack's worry about the impending "showdown" waiting in Yellow Sky is humorous; the "showdown" is only his concern about what people will think of him returning with a bride since he has not spoken with anyone in town of his plan to marry. The tension builds as an old-fashioned steam train crawls toward his destination, allowing plenty of time for his nervousness to deepen.
The scene in Yellow Sky takes place in the town saloon, this one ironically named "The Weary Gentleman." The name is satirical, as the denizens of saloons tended to be the opposite of gentlemen: they are gamblers, gunslingers, transients, and prostitutes with their rough customers. When there is talk of trouble with "Scratchy Wilson," the comically nicknamed town drunk who is handy with his pistol, two Mexicans bolt the scene and the saloonkeeper boards up the saloon. This is a typical Western scene, but it is satirical since the "danger" is not dangerous at all.
When the "showdown" happens, it occurs without a shot fired. Scratchy Wilson is dumbfounded by the news of Jack Potter's wedding and is too unnerved by the sight of Jack's wife to pursue the matter further.
Crane's story includes several of the literary conventions and stereotypes of the traditional Western tale. There is a small Western town, the town's sheriff, the sheriff's new bride, and the gunslinger. In his story, however, Crane takes liberties with all of these.
Yellow Sky is not inhabited by tough frontier types, but is instead peopled by a fairly social group of folks who pay a lot of attention to the sheriff's personal life. The sheriff, Jack Potter, is not the strong, silent type. He is instead a sheepish groom who fears what the townspeople will say when he comes home a married man. Potter's new bride is not the stereotypical love interest. She is older than her husband, plain and unattractive. Finally, the gunslinger of Yellow Sky bears the unlikely name of Scratchy Wilson. When Scratchy challenges Jack, there is no climactic shoot out. Instead, Scratchy simply slinks away when he learns Potter is unarmed and also has gotten himself married. Speechless and completely astounded, Scratchy just does not know what to do with that information.