What is the central idea of "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky"?
Is it more than that the East is more progressive than the West? I feel as if there is something more to it that, and I am just not seeing it. Could anyone suggest what their perception of the story is?
The central idea of "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" is that it was the arrival of women--that is, respectable women--that tamed the Wild West. The new bride dressed in her formal Eastern finery symbolizes the arrival of civilization. Scratchy Wilson with his two revolvers symbolizes the old Wild West. As soon as Scratchy sees the new bride he understands that his days of lawlessness are over.
"Married?" said Scratchy. Seemingly for the first time he saw the drooping, drowning woman at the other man's side. "No!" he said. He was like a creature allowed a glimpse of another world. He moved a pace backward, and his arm with the revolver dropped to his side. "Is this the lady?" he asked.
"Yes, this is the lady," answered Potter.
There was another period of silence.
"Well," said Wilson at last, slowly, "I s'pose it's all off now."
Scratchy will have to move on. As the barkeeper says,
He's about the last one of the old gang that used to hang out along the river here.
A process of evolution is taking place. Men like Scratchy are disappearing, while women like Potter's bride are arriving in increasing numbers. The transcontinental railroad brought respectable women to the West to be married. With marriage came children. The wives demanded law and order. They wanted churches, schools, shops, cleanliness, and proper manners. The West had been wild because there were no women except for the types who worked in saloons. All the men carried revolvers and had no place to hang out except for saloons, where the standard drink was straight whiskey. It was inevitable that there would be deadly gunfights under those circumstances.
Jack Potter's bride is only a symbol for all the women who would be arriving in the West. Together they would exert a civilizing influence on the men. The men would start bathing and shaving. They would tip their Stetson hats to ladies. Potter himself may be said to be a symbol of law and order, he and men like him will impose the kind of law and order the women demand.
This is one of Stephen Crane's short stories that really employs a lot of irony. I don't think the idea of "the East is more progressive than the West" is a central idea of the story, though. If you read the story carefully, you may be confused because you think you see something one way, through the eyes of one character, but then you see something totally different, a different point of view, through the eyes of a different character. And that is the point: what is reality? Are there versions of reality? Can there be more than one reality? Can there be more than one truth? Is truth relative? How can we trust truth, then? Maybe what we THINK is reality really isn't reality. Does this sound confusing? That's why the story seems a little confusing to you!