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Analysis of “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” by Stephen Crane

The novel’s main character, Mr. Potter, is a Texas marshal returning to Yellow Sky with his eastern wife. Sheriff Wilson and his thugs are about to be confronted by gunman Scratchy Wilson, but the sheriff’s wife and an older man talk him out of it. It was written as a metaphor for the massive shift in civilization depicted in “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” A well-known author investigated Robert Potter, a Texas politician born the same year as Paul Sorrentino. Robert Potter signed the Texas Declaration of Independence under penalty of perjury in 1836. “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” a novel by Crane, depicts a Texas marshal named Jack Potter as a legendary symbol of the self-made frontiersman who helped civilize the West in the early 1900s (Crane 538). That wasn’t Scratchy Wilson’s impression at the time.

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The story’s plot, characters, setting, viewpoint, and symbolism are established in the opening. When our bride arrives in Yellow Sky, we’ll see an even more refined lifestyle from the East, which is what we can expect. Modernity has little in common with the pre-colonial West, rapidly disappearing. Comics and illustrations by Scratchy Wilson have a retro feel to them. While once a notorious lawbreaker, this man has since become just another booze-addled twenty-something from the suburbs of his once-prominent hometown. Scratchy has a new lease on life despite his throwback appearance. Some Jewish lady on the East Side of New York gave these boots to some younger snowmobilers. When it comes to this time of year, this is especially true. Traders or drummers from the Eastern United States are most likely to blame for bringing them here. When Scratchy was younger, he would retreat to his room, bowed in defeat, fearing change. Plot, character, setting developments, and the author’s point of view provide an excellent depiction of the wild West’s waning and the gradual incorporation of values from the urban East at various levels.

The author’s commitment to truth and sincerity shines through when retelling tales not based on Crane’s own life experiences, such as in The Red Badge of Courage. The West, he thought, was where one could get a real sense of what it was like to live in the United States. It would be disturbing if the “honest frontier” of the American West were to become a clone of Eastern Europe. The final border was crossed while he was still alive, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 1890. Crane expresses his dismay at the deterioration of Western ideals through the character of Jack Potter (Berryman). Because of its greater breadth and depth, he considered Western culture superior to Eastern culture. The values of the American West influenced many of his goals. As a contemporary of Crane’s, Frederick Jackson Turner lauded the West as a source of American individualism’s ferocity. Authenticity was highly valued in the West (Weatherspoon 7). He later regretted comparing the “honesty” of the West to the “pretending and dishonesty” of his New England upbringing. He hails from the Northeastern United States.

Despite his lack of knowledge of the West, Crane found it refreshingly honest. Because of this, Michael Collins says that “the western story world may be far from a paradise, but it is a paradise pure and simple.” On the other hand, Crane romanticizes frontier life, although it is anything but ideal. As with his reverence for Western stories rather than the local patriarchs and folk heroes of his native New Jersey, Crane shows that he has been exposed to (or at least has a perspective on) Western culture. He may have been influenced by Jack Potter, a famous cowboy who rode and established the PotterBacon Trail in northeast Texas in 1883. Jack Potter was a Methodist circuit preacher like Stephen Crane’s father. As well-known as Texas, northern states like New Jersey were less enthusiastic about Jack Potter’s heroics. If Crane had renamed his protagonist in “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” he could have achieved a more Western feel. A saloon was a must-have for the establishment. A sheriff was urgently needed in the area. It was critical to call on the services of the well-known town drunk when the time came. Crane drew inspiration from prominent Easterners or individuals who significantly influenced his formative years in the East in terms of character names.

On the other hand, Crane decided on Jack Potter as the character’s ancestor from the West. It is a gradual transition from frontier hero to a domesticated spouse that Jack Potter undergoes in Crane’s Story. As he puts it, “like a leaden slab,” a shadow of a deed hung over Jack Potter. Potter’s concern that American culture has redefined what it means to be a “westerner” is shared by Crane. It was Potter, the Yellow Sky town marshal, who “truly encouraged the girl to marry him” because he was “known, revered and feared in his area.” While Potter is still seen as the Western hero—the community’s focused and successful leader—many others see him as a romantic lead. According to Crane, Potter’s softening was attributed to his wife, making him no longer revered, admired, or respected.

Critics point to the bride as a significant factor in becoming a family man. HerWilson and Potter’s hatred during the most recent fight. Potter’s marriage had the opposite effect during the most recent battle despite the “West Treatment’s” claims that it could give stressed Eastern men like Potter more vitality, well-being, and competence. Even though he is a Westerner, he no longer conforms to any preconceived notions about Asians. It appeared that Crane was saying that without the West, a hero is not a hero. Potter’s straightforward and memorable demeanor from the previous chapter. Scratchy’s actions no longer meet the expectations of the Yellow Sky community in terms of domesticity, responsibility, and “Eastern” train experiences. As Potter has matured, a Western hero is no longer the stereotypical gun-toting cowboy that he once was. Compared to Potter, who was “furtive and shy,” the Western hero is dominant, charismatic, and sure of himself. His writer describes him as an “oddity” in a Western setting, just like Pullman’s hero (Cistelecan 72). He was an untamed cowboy who roamed the open plains in the past. Due to his marriage, Jack Potter has evolved into a bland, submissive family man. Among Roosevelt and Wister’s criteria for defining a heroic Westerner, these three characteristics stood out: elegance, self-assurance, and strength. The uniqueness and exoticism of Harry Potter have been lost in the Eastern reader’s perspective (Crane 540). In frontier Texas, the sheriff/marshal can be humiliated with ease, which raises serious doubts about Western civilization.

Even for customers from the East who have never seen any of the “real” West, the imagined Western culture has been contaminated, and thus an ideal has perished. West. Those who live in the East face this issue more than most. In “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” Crane uses numerous references to death and decay to underscore the imminence of the West’s demise. It is Western because every scene features a relation to death or neglect. There are three Texans and two Mexicans working at the Weary Gentlemen Saloon. Pallbearers typically consist of six men. The neighborhood appears to be preparing for a funeral as Potter and his wife return. The Field of Blood is where foreigners’ bodies were interred. A unique perspective on the fleeting Wild West was afforded Potter by the strewn remains of foreigners who had perished in Jerusalem. Many Easterners had never heard of this concept before. Marmaduke is associated with Potter’s surname, which conjures up images of death. Reuben Marmaduke (Cistelecan 72).

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Stephen Crane Sorrentino, a hero of the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War, wrote about Potter. Reuben Potter’s “Hymn of the Alamo” made San Antonio, Texas, famous. The name of a well-known soldier from one of the West’s many successful wars lends a tense atmosphere to this piece of poetry. It is possible that Crane was alluding to his upbringing in New Jersey and the Western values he came to admire. Reuben M. Potter, a New Jersey native, and the author, was born and raised in the Garden State. According to Crane, western civilization was on the verge of extinction rather than survival (Berryman 28). Getting married is a sure sign of doom. Crane, for example, depicts Potter’s stiff neck and face just as the train is about to stop Yellow Sky. Potter tries to bring his fiancée as close to the town as possible out of fear that the people he once saved will reject their union. He dreads having to tell his village that the “Western” element has been extinguished because he decided to marry and thus lose his status as a Western hero. His opponent’s absence heightens the “surrounding silence,” making him feel even more enraged.

In addition to the Western culture that Potter has within himself, Scratchy also contains the Western soul that Potter kills. A pistol is pointed at Potter’s upper body, and his lips turn into “a tomb for his tongue,” as the story concludes. The New Testament passage would be second nature to Crane because of his Methodist upbringing. According to Romans, both Jews and Greeks are sinners, and the author makes numerous allusions to the Old Testament to support this claim. “Their neck is an open grave, and they use their lips to deceive.” Warning: Asp poison is lurking just around the corner! At first, his claim is obscured by the biblical notion that a tomb is located in the mouth or neck of the deceased (Cistelecan 72). Do you think Crane believes Potter is being dishonest here? His feelings of regret for not including the Yellow Sky residents in his wedding plans are not the only reason for his sadness when he returns to Yellow Sky to bring his Bride home (Weatherspoon 7). Because of his marriage, an unspoken death sentence hangs over Potter and his community. By rejecting “Western” values, he poisons himself, despite being a hero in his community. Crane conveys an ominous tone throughout his story with his worry that the West will be forever tarnished. As evidenced by his art, Crane was profoundly affected by the disappearance of the West.

West’s reality crumbled, and the truth was lost forever. The hourglass motif repeatedly appears in the story as a physical reminder of the passing of time and a metaphor for how Western values crumble away from Crane. Scratchy Wilson, for example, remarks in the final scene about “His feet leaving funnel-shaped imprints in the deep sandy earth” (Cistelecan 72). With the last words “an hourglass,” Crane emphasizes the funnel-like form taken by the sand tracks (Weatherspoon 7). Crane uses subtle allusions to hourglasses, funnels, and the passage of time when confronted with impending doom. Once again, the narrowest point of the hourglass/funnel structure is Yellow Sky. Sand flows fastest at the hourglass’s narrowest point as it leaves its top bulb at the most significant speed (Bassan 13). After reading Crane’s connection between the funnel form and historical events, it is as if Yellow Sky has never been freer to break free from its roots. Yellow Sky will never return to its frontier roots until the entire system is reversed, just like sand in an hourglass never returns to the bulb where it was.

When a man returns from an excursion with a “bride,” critic Chester L. Wolford claims in “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” that in both cases, “a guy returns from a journey with a ‘bride.’” Because of Helen’s appearance in The Iliad, a war breaks out, and Troy is destroyed. Potter keeps the Yellow Sky order intact with her husband, preventing it from “disintegrating.” On the other hand, Potter and Paris’ performances are vastly different. Paris abducts Helen and authorizes the launching of “a thousand ships,” but Potter manages to calm the storm by introducing his wife to the social scene to start the war (Bassan 7). The tension would have been enough in the Iliad even if there was no actual conflict between the characters. Despite Yellow Sky’s reputation as a violent place, “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” has a subtle drama. It is remarkable how little conflict there is in the traditional sense. It emphasized “outside rather than inside activity” in Western tales. Both are missing from Crane’s diary. Crane offers nothing similar for all scenes that lead up to or do not lead to a traditional “Wild West” shootout.

To sum up, Potter no longer fulfills society’s expectations as a heroic character from the Western genre. Stephen Crane could have used a story like this, but he chose not to write one himself. When he wrote this piece in 1898, his family had abandoned Crane; he was deeply in debt, was sick with TB, and had given in to the peer pressure of trying to make a living as a writer (Berryman 36). The friends and colleagues of Crane in the future noticed that as his career progressed and the image he painted of himself improved, he became more confident and was “simply inventing his biography.” He had married his writing career thus, taking on all the responsibilities to publishers, editors, and readers to create an appealing persona and produce marketable tales. Like Harry Potter’s, his sincerity began to wane after getting married.

Works Cited

Bassan, Maurice. “Introduction.” Stephen Crane: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Maurice Bassan, Prentice-Hall, 1967, pp. 1-11.

Bassan, Maurice. “The ‘True West’ of Sam Shepard and Stephen Crane.” American Literary Realism, 1870-1910, vol. 28, no. 2, 1996, pp. 11–17. JSTOR, Web.

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Berryman, John. “Crane’s Art.” Stephen Crane: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Maurice Bassan, Prentice-Hall, 1967, pp. 27-51.

Berryman, John. Stephen Crane: A Critical Biography. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1977. Burns, Shannon, and James Levernier. “Crane’s the Bride Comes to Yellow Sky’.” Explicator, vol. 37, no. 1, 1978, pp. 36-37.

Cistelecan, Ioana. “American Western Hero. Rise & Fall.” Cultural Texts and Contexts in the English Speaking World: 72. Web.

Crane, Stephen. “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” Heath Anthology of American Literature, edited by Paul Lauter, Richard Yarborough, et al., Wadsworth, 2010, pp. 534-541.

Weatherspoon, Kaylee. “Losing the West: A Critical Analysis of Crane’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” The Oswald Review: An International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Criticism in the Discipline of English 22.1 (2020): 7. Web.

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