“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.)