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Stephen Crane’s short story “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” belongs to his Western saga series, and thus reveals historical and cultural aspects of life and people’s communication, which was typical at the time. In a humorous tone, the author unveils the laws and moral principles of the community by the example of several people that belonged to it. He demonstrates how cruelty and severity of surviving in Yellow Sky coexist with sympathy and chivalry that people can reveal unexpectedly.
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The plot focuses on the relationship between Sheriff Jack Potter and his wife to whom he got married on the day when story takes place. They are both not young and feel shy about their new status; however, they are deeply in love with each other. The setting of the story is the train that goes from San Antonio to Yellow Sky, Potter’s native town. As a respected member of the local community he is anxious about the decision to bring a wife without even mentioning his marriage plans to the neighborhood. When returning home, Jack runs into his enemy who is about to shoot him. Scratchy Wilson is a local gangster with whom Sheriff has been fighting for ages, so now that he is unarmed there is a risk that he is going to kill Jack. However, after finding out about Jack’s marriage, Wilson leaves unexpectedly declaring that their struggle is over.
There are several themes that the author explores in his short story. One of them is the theme of love that makes people change their lives dramatically. Both Sheriff and his wife are not young, so the decision to get married means changing their usual routines and habits. It is frightening for the woman to move from San Antonio to Yellow Sky, but Potter is very persistent when offeing her marriage, besides they are sincerely in love with each other. In a humorous tone, the author reveals their feelings for one another. People on the train make fun of them, but the couple is so happy and preoccupied with each other that they do not even notice:
"We are due in Yellow Sky at 3:42," he said, looking tenderly into her eyes.
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"Oh, are we?" she said, as if she had not been aware of it. To evince surprise at her husband's statement was part of her wifely amiability. She took from a pocket a little silver watch, and as she held it before her and stared at it with a frown of attention, the new husband's face shone (Crane).
Through the dialogue and observation, the author reveals the characters’ feelings to the readers. As the point of view is a third person narration of omniscient perspective, Crane uses a variety of implicit and explicit modes to expose his characters.
Another important theme of the novel is nobility or fair play. This theme in presented by the author in an unexpected context of a struggle between Sheriff and Scratchy Wilson. Jack Potter is the only person who is able to cope with Scratchy and he usually does it successfully, once even shooting his leg. They have been enemies for ages, so this is why meeting him unarmed and accompanied by his wife is the most unpleasant surprise of which Sheriff could think. However, the unfolding of the situation is quite unexpected for the readers, yet it is not that unexpected to Potter who must be acquainted with the moral principles of the time quite well. The criminal Wilson refuses to shoot the unarmed Sheriff and suddenly walks away when finding out about his marriage: ‘“Well, I 'low it's off, Jack," said WWilson. He was looking at the ground. "Married!" He was not a student of chivalry; it was merely that in the presence of this foreign condition he was a simple child of the earlier plains. He picked up his starboard revolver, and placing both weapons in their holsters, he went away. His feet made funnel-shaped tracks in the heavy sand”’( Crane). Thus, the author reveals that Western world had the unspoken code of honor, to which even criminal pertained.
Speaking more about the elements of the story, it is possible to say that the couple’s travel in a train refers to the rising action, the anxiety of Sheriff and the passengers’ discussion of Wilson creates suspense, while the actual climax is Wilson’s appearance with a gun pointed at Sheriff. Respectively, his decision to leave Sheriff alone resolves the conflict and refers to the falling action. These elements of the story are aligned with the author’s tone of narration, which changes from the beginning to the end. While the tone is humorous at the start, when the author makes fun of awkwardness that the newlyweds have, it changes into a more serious one by the end of the story when they have to face real danger. While Potter is a clumsy middle aged man with rough manners at the beginning, he appears to be cool-blooded and courageous Sheriff in the course of the action.
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In conclusion, it is worth saying that all elements of the story contribute to the author’s intention to reveal a special nature of life in Wild West. He demonstrates the striking contrast between severe conditions of life, cruelty and criminality, and the unexpected code of chivalry which existed between people. In other words, there is a romanticized depiction despite many realistic elements and approaches.
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