How did women tame the Wild West?
The bride Jack Potter brings back to Yellow Sky is demure. She has very little to say. But she is bringing civilization with her. It was women who tamed the Wild West. They had babies and they demanded schools, churches, houses with lace curtains, shopping facilities, books, magazines, pianos, fences, lawns, flower beds, visitors, cleanliness, regular meals, good cooking, and above all law and order. It is significant that the bride is married to the sheriff of Yellow Sky because he represents law and order. It is also significant that Scratchy, his arch enemy, terrorizes the town; he is the symbol of the Wild West which is evolving into something entirely different. All three principal characters are intended to be symbolic of what was slowly but inexorably taking place in the West. The bride symbolizes womanhood, family, religion, education, morality, and civilization. The groom symbolizes the means by which the amenities of civilization are obtained and preserved for the benefit of women and children. The villain symbolizes the old Wild West itself. Jack Potter doesn't have to shoot it out with Scratchy, even though Scratchy is on the warpath. Scratchy takes one look at the respectable girl Jack has brought home with him and is instantly subdued. Such is the power of women. They create families, homes, and stability. Women want security and stability, and they manage to get it wherever they reside in any part of the world. Men instinctively want women's approval. Women are their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. Men instinctively want to avoid the disapproval of women and especially women's tears. In a place like Yellow Sky, where there are very few respectable woman, one of them can have an awesome effect, as Jack Potter's new bride did on Scratchy without doing a thing or saying a word. She is not especially good-looking, but she is an apparition in her formal city clothes with the puff sleeves. The clothes also represent civilization and respectability. Yellow Sky itself is a symbol of the Wild West. What is happening in this little town will be happening all over, because men need women, just as women need men. Women will come to the West looking for husbands and, like Jack Potter's new wife, will be brought to the West. Inevitably, the population will change from 99% male to fifty-fifty, as it is now. The title of Crane's story says it all: The arrival of one respectable married woman changes the entire attitude of the community. Scratchy does not have to be told that his savage behavior will no longer be tolerated. Instead of being afraid of him, everybody will turn against him. He had better change his ways or move on.