The most obvious difference is that Jack Potter is the law and Scratchy Wilson the bandit. Each fulfills a particular purpose in this typical frontier town—a place where men supposedly lived fast and loose. The two men represent archetypes associated with the so-called Wild West—one good and one bad—and are symbols...
The most obvious difference is that Jack Potter is the law and Scratchy Wilson the bandit. Each fulfills a particular purpose in this typical frontier town—a place where men supposedly lived fast and loose. The two men represent archetypes associated with the so-called Wild West—one good and one bad—and are symbols of the stereotypical protagonist and antagonist who generally face off in the end.
Jack has decided to become cultured and settled by getting married, while Scratchy has clearly retained his old vagabond habits and will not change anytime soon. While Jack obviously is much admired by the residents of Yellow Sky, it is clear that Scratchy is feared and probably much disliked. Jack displays a gentleness which Scratchy evidently lacks.
Jack is the epitome of decency, while Scratchy, in his drunken state, is like an animal, driven and encouraged (by alcohol) to express his anger and frustration. This difference is clearly emphasized by the manner in which Jack treats his new bride, in contrast to the remarks made about Scratchy by those in the saloon. Furthermore, it should be obvious that in the town's hierarchy, Jack occupies a position of authority, while Scratchy is regarded with derision for being the typical town drunk and troublemaker.
Jack, therefore, ensures the safety and protection of those under his watch, while Scratchy poses a threat. When he comes into town drunk, he spreads mayhem. Jack, conversely, is there to provide peace—he is, evidently, the only one in Yellow Sky that can subdue the aggressive Scratchy.
In the greater scheme of things, the two men, in this microcosm, are symbols of good and evil. Ironically, though, both retain a bit of the other as well. Jack, for example, feels guilty about betraying the townsfolk and not trusting them enough to tell them about getting married, while Scratchy, even in his drunken state, displays some decency when he abandons his attack on Jack upon discovering that he is married.
Finally, Jack represents the changing, more civilized way of life heralded by the arrival of the railroad (which brings more women to town), while Scratchy typifies the old rough and tumble way of life that was quintessential to the Wild West.