In The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky, Stephen Crane features the ordinary as well as its sometimes adverse consequences. In the story, Scratchy Wilson and Jack Potter confront a significant change in their nature. Crane’s story shows the nature of social addition with the unanticipated change towards a new society. The inflexibility of the community to accept these eastern influences is presented within the depictions of Jack Potter and Scratchy Wilson. Stephen Crane reveals that whether a connection or struggle remains, change is unavoidable. Although their actions and emotions regarding the changes in their town differ, Scratchy and Potter are both apprehensive of the inevitable eastern influences.
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To highlight the intricacy and inevitability of change, Crane presents the characters’ loyalty to the Old West. “Crane is dramatizing the dying of the sentimentalized West with the encroachment of the lifestyle of the civilized East” (Petry 45). Scratchy, the legacy of an old gang, exhibits his pleasurable past by going wild around the Yellow Sky town with his long revolvers and his drunken blasphemy. Crane portrays Scratchy’s commitment to preserve his old ways by using descriptive phrases like, “creeping movement of the midnight cat,” chants of “Apache scalp-music,” and “terrible invitations” (Crane 106-08). Without doubt, the description of Scratchy Wilson is a mock of the image of a traditional Western villain. Wilson’s idea as the Western villain is erroneous. He is not an authentic man of the West with his Eastern style. Crane writes, “â€¦his boots had red tops with gilded imprints, of the kind beloved in winter by little sledding boys on the hillsides of New England” (Crane 107). While he patrols the quiet and empty streets of Yellow Sky, Scratchy Wilson’s foolish and diverse personality is revealed as he yells out insensitive invitations to join him in a gunfight. He grows repeatedly frustrated when his requests go unanswered. Petry says, “It is perhaps significant in this regard that one slang definition of a ‘scratch’ is ‘An unknown, insignificant, or chronically poor person, one who is to be ignored’- as, indeed, the townspeople of Yellow Sky tend to perceive Wilson” (47).
In comparison, Jack Potter, the marshal of yellow sky, is portrayed as a valiant man and much respected in this small community. He displays the usual awkwardness of a recently married man. Potter then undergoes an unclear conflict, which is the attention he and his unnamed wife will receive in Yellow Sky. Crane does not give a lot of detail about the bride. She is basically described as not very “pretty” or “young” (Crane 102). Petry says, “nothing better illustrates this rather abstract cultural and demographic concept [west meets east] than his [Crane] refusal to Jack Potter’s new bride a name” (45). Making her a static character, she is basically acknowledged and does not change thought the story. “She matters only as a representative of the new Eastern order” (Petry 45). Jack Potter believes he has dishonored the town. He feels like this because he has violated the customs of the West because he acted on “impulse” and had gone “headlong over all social hedges” (Crane 104), by marrying his new wife.
The reader becomes aware of Crane’s intention to prove this unanticipated change towards the Yellow Sky society when the two central characters, Scratchy and Potter, finally encounter each other. Scratchy Wilson approaches Jack Potter’s house and calls out his challenge, with no response. Still frustrated, he reloads his gun, and the bride and Jack Potter interrupt him. The “apparitional snake” (Crane 109) is the drunken Scratchy Wilson. “â€¦the demonic, for ‘Old Scratch’ is a traditional nickname for the devil. The ‘y’ suffix of ‘Scratchy,’ however, nicely deflates Wilson’s demonismâ€¦” (46-7), Petry notes. When Potter explains to Wilson about his new marriage, the revelation entirely changes the dynamic of their connection. Scratchy’s Western myth of aggressiveness and utterly masculine world disrupts at the recognition of Jack Potter’s woman. Potter’s new life cannot coexist with Scratchy’s violence in his account of the fictional West. The unanticipated change of a new society has occurred. The period of the fictional West has passed. “[I]t was merely that in the presence of this foreign condition he was a simple child of the earlier plains” (Crane 110). Wilson takes the mature direction and appropriately admits, “I s’pose it’s all off now” (Crane 110). Petry states, “Wilson signifies his decision to withdraw from a gunfight with Jack Potter and in so doing to decline engaging in any active resistance to the encroachment of the East” (47).
Stephen Crane’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” has a simple storyline with great meaning against inflexibility. Crane’s perceptions and expressions still seem as current as anything experienced to date, like Potter and Scratchy’s period of life preceding maturity. His imagery is vivid and he brilliantly sets forth the inescapable influences, proving nothing can stay dull.
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