The Many Meanings of The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Stephen Crane's "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" is a tale about a town sheriff, Jack Potter, who is returning home from a trip where he has married. Jack returns shamefully with his new wife of little worldly experience. The town of Yellow Sky knows Jack as the fearless Marshal who is never afraid to stare down the barrel of a gun. Jack's return to Yellow Sky happens to be at a time when the town drunk, Scratchy Wilson, is looking for a gunfight. However, the townspeople and Scratchy are disappointed to find him married, unarmed, and unwilling to fight. Before Jack arrived the townspeople were hoping for his arrival to cool off the situation. As one bartender said, "'I wish Jack Potter was back from San Anton', he shot Wilson up once--in the leg--and he would sail in and pull out the kinks in this thing'" (215). This quote and Jack's shamefulness are what leads people into discussions of this story.
Jack Potter's marriage was kept secret from any of his friends and family, so his new wife was something unknown to anyone. For this and other reasons, Jack is afraid to return to Yellow Sky a married man. As critic Eric Solomon once put it: "He is condemned in his own eyes for betraying two traditions: he has tarnished the person of Marshal, a figure fearsome and independent, and he has tampered with the custom of partnership--he has not consulted his male friends" (136).
Marshal Jack Potter no longer feels the thrill of being Marshal Jack Potter because of his new engagement. Jack is afraid he will lose his reputation that the people of Yellow Sky revere him for.
Stephen Crane sets the story well because he allows the reader to understand the tw...
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...d to be seen as by the people of Yellow Sky was as an ordinary man. Instead of being a heroic figure comparable to John Wayne, Jack Potter is now comparable to the a kind of man one would categorize as ordinary.
Crane's fabulous depiction of the rise and fall of small town marshal is one of beauty. Jack Potter is seen in Yellow Sky as a person that one dreams of being, a wild-west hero that one idolizes. Soon, Crane reduces Jack Potter to the same level of the reader, and maybe below because he is now seen as a fallen hero.
Beer, Thomas. Stephen Crane: A Study in American Letters. 1923. Reprint. New York; Octagon Books, 1972, pg.248.
Modern Fiction Studies, Stephen Crane Number V, No.3 (Autumn: 1959): 195-291.
Solomon, Eric. Stephen Crane in England: A Portrait of the Artist. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964, pg.136.