The central theme of Stephen Crane 's The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky is the West 's loss of its traditional rough-hewn character due to the steady encroachment of Eastern Culture (and soft Eastern attitudes). In that sense the most important aspects of setting are the train that is taking Jack and his new bride back to Yellow Sky, and the town itself, which itself has already begun to symbolizes those changes.
The setting actually serves two purposes, initially to establish a sense of Eastern style and then to knock it down by contrast with the authenticity of the West. The story opens with the newlyweds on board the train headed west towards the town of Yellow Sky. Though located in remote western, Yellow Sky can be reached by train, which serves as a literal and figurative “vehicle” for bringing Eastern society to the West. Jack 's anonymous wife is not important for who she is. When Crane tells us that “the bride was not pretty,” (335). It feels that he 's talking not only in literal terms but in terms of the role increasingly played by women in ‘taming’ (‘ruining’?) the West. “She wore a dress of blue cashmere, with small reservations of velvet here and there and with steel buttons abounding. She continually twisted her head to regard her puff sleeves, very stiff, straight, and high.”(335).Similarly the luxurious Pullman coach, with its "dazzling fittings,” (335). It was like an alien creature to the West—visible evidence of the “fussy” east intruding into the authentic grittiness of the old West.
The closer the couple gets to town the more conscious and obvious tension between the ‘fussy’ atmosphere on the train and the grit of Yellow Sky and the old West is present. In their fancy Eastern get-ups Jack an...
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...builds tension to an inevitable gun fight but no such gunfight occurs. It is a build-up to nothing...a build-up to a letdown that feels a little bit like a sex scene without the sex. Of course, the lack of a gunfight further symbolizes the changing, increasingly civilized West.
Yes, the encounter between Scratchy and Jack occurs. But there is no gunfight in part because Jack says he has no gun. This is more symbolic evidence of his loss of heritage and status. Jack even blurts “I 'm married,” as if to imply that marriage itself causes a kind of gun-slinging impotence. Although Scratchy initially is unconvinced, he finally gives in. When he says at the end, "I s 'pose it 's all off now,” (342). Scratchy’s speaking not only of the gunfight itself, but more metaphorically of the West itself. “It 's all off now.”(342). And so, according to Stephen Crane, it is indeed.
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