Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although Jack believes that he is guilty of a crime and has been a traitor to the community, he takes himself, as do many Crane protagonists, much too seriously. His perceptions of himself and his situation are not shared by the other characters or by Crane’s readers. The saloon conversation indicates that Jack is useful in containing Scratchy, but it does not reflect Jack’s “centrality” in the community. (In fact, Jack’s decision to marry must have followed his subconscious awareness that it was “safe” to marry.)

The gap between perception and reality is apparent on the train: “To the minds of the pair, their surroundings reflected the glory of their marriage.” The passengers and the black porter are not impressed, however, for they see the bride’s “under-class countenance,” her “shy and clumsy coquetry,” and the groom’s self-consciousness and lack of sophistication. To Jack, his house is his “citadel” and his marriage is his new “estate.” The mock-heroic style is epitomized in the bride’s reaction to the meeting with Scratchy: “She was a slave to hideous rites, gazing at the apparitional snake.” Crane elevates the meeting of Jack and his bride with Scratchy to myth: The “apparitional snake,” the satanic force that introduces evil into the new Edenic estate, is the drunken Scratchy Wilson; Jack and his bride are the innocent Adam and Eve; the “rite” is the fall from grace. Surely, nothing could be...

(The entire section is 429 words.)