(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” half the length of “The Blue Hotel” and “The Open Boat,” lacks the narrative density and philosophical depth of either. Instead it debunks some pervasive myths of the American West, with wonderfully comic effect. In the generally grim catalog of Crane’s work, this story offers a refreshing change of pace.

In the most primitive kind of Western story, the characters lack identifiable human characteristics. They are robotlike, standing for largely meaningless abstractions of good or evil; everything leads up to, and the interest of the story lies in, the climactic showdown. Marshal Jack Potter of Yellow Sky, Texas, on the other hand, is all too human. As he rides home on the train from San Antonio, his new bride beside him, he is thinking not of confrontations with bad guys but, anxiously and distractedly, of what the town will think of him in his new married state. This is a rite of passage in more than the ordinary sense. It marks Jack’s transition from Old West lawman, the stereotypical hero of the American frontier, to solid married citizen of the New West, the self-conscious hero of domestic comedy. To mark the occasion, he has left his gun at home.

Meanwhile, back in Yellow Sky, the Old West seems alive and well in the person of Scratchy Wilson. In a scene out of any number of dime Westerns (the kind of story that fatally terrified the Swede in “The Blue Hotel”), a young man appears at...

(The entire section is 582 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” concerns the efforts of a town marshal bringing his new bride to the “frontier” town of Yellow Sky, Texas, at a time when the Old West is being slowly but inevitably civilized. At the climax of the story, the stereotypical and seemingly inevitable gunfight, a staple feature of Westerns, is averted, and the reader senses that all such gunplay is a thing of the past, that in fact Stephen Crane is describing the “end of an era.”

Crane’s four-part story concerns human beings’ interaction with their environment. (Jack’s wife is not an individualized person with a name; she is important only because she represents marriage as a civilized institution.) In part 1, Crane describes the progress of the “great Pullman” train across Texas. With its luxurious appointments (“the dazzling fittings of the coach”), the train is a foreign country to the newlyweds, whom Crane portrays as self-conscious aliens: Jack’s hands “perform” in a “most conscious fashion,” and his bride is “embarrassed” by her puff sleeves. The couple are so self-conscious and intimidated by their surroundings that the black porter “bullies” them, regards them with “an amused and superior grin,” and generally “oppresses” them, treatment that they also receive from the black waiter, who “patronizes them.” As the train nears Yellow Sky, Jack becomes “commensurately restless,” primarily because he knows that he...

(The entire section is 596 words.)