Full online text of The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky by Stephen Crane

Yellow Sky had a kind of brass band, which played painfully, to the delight of the populace. He laughed without heart as he thought of it. If the citizens could dream of his prospective arrival with his bride, they would parade the band at the station and escort them, amid cheers and laughing congratulations, to his adobe home.

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Experiences from Crane's own life bear directly on this particular piece of short fiction. Crane's late father had been a Methodist minister, and his late mother had been the daughter of a Methodist minister. A year or two before he wrote "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" Crane had taken up with the madam of a house of prostitution in Jacksonville, Florida. He was well aware of how impossible it would be to bring such a woman back to his home territory, where relatives, friends, and acquaintances were still living. During the period from 1891 to 1896 the author lived mostly in New York (aside from brief trips to the West and Mexico in 1895), producing reportage and fiction for various local papers. In New York the raffish and footloose Crane took liberal advantage of what such purlieus as the Bowery had to offer. Beer, Crane's early biographer, colorfully describes this spicy, unruly district of shabby buildings, saloons, prostitutes, and what O. Henry called "waifs and strays," and then adds, "The Bowery, though, was funny. Comedians aped its dress on the stage of Koster and Bial's improper vaudeville and speakers at banquets recited Bowery jokes. There was no other slum in America so settled of speech and habit. It was supposed that the Bowery invented words." It is this latter element that actually provides a means for an understanding of the structure as well as the contents of "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky."

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The text itself bespeaks not merely a dramatic performance involving rituals, as some commentators have indicated, but an actual vaudeville show. The matter of basic stage setting—scenery and music—is made clear at certain points in the narrative. Sheriff Potter recalls as he and his bride are riding toward Yellow Sky that the town has a brass band of sorts, and he imagines without pleasure what kind of uproarious parade and escort the band would provide for them from the train station to his home if the townspeople knew about their marriage and expected their arrival. Back in Yellow Sky, across from the Weary Gentleman Saloon, there were "vivid green grass-plots" so striking in appearance as to arouse "a doubt in the mind" because of their exact resemblance to "the grass mats used to represent lawns on the stage."

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“The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” as a Parody on …

Then there are a number of extended and closely interrelated skits, as well as a certain amount of stage business, to provide the general outlines of a lively vaudeville production. The opening skit is set in a lavishly decorated, dazzlingly appointed parlor car. The bride is neither pretty, nor young, nor very bright, nor even of her husband's modest social background; both are ill at ease amid their fancy surroundings in the parlor car and in the dining car. Added to their essential nervousness and trepidation about Yellow Sky's reaction to their arrival is their inexperience as a domestic duo, which is so obvious that they attract the derisive attention of fellow passengers, the porter, and the waiter. Crane's creation of this mirthful scene, awkward newlyweds unintentionally playing clown roles, is in the best vaudeville tradition of the innocent as comic victim. The author's intention here is highlighted in the text: "Historically there was supposed to be something infinitely humorous in their situation."

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The bride comes to yellow sky essay

Taking the story as a whole, critics have read it as a kind of satire of, or humorous commentary on, the passing of the Old West as that region in time gave way to Eastern influences and the force of progress. Crane actually complained after his 1895 trip westward and to Mexico about the way the West was being transformed. Clearly Crane's story, with the badman's "reversal of intention" at the end, suggests that the contemporary West is not what it used to be, but the narrative conveys much more than that. The variety of critical interpretations indicates the complexity of symbolic patterns, allusions, and perspectives it contains. Among the plethora of structural elements are the appellations (Jack Potter, Scratchy Wilson, Yellow Sky, the Weary Gentleman Saloon), the story's dualisms (old and new, East and West, old and young, static and kinetic landscapes, guilt and innocence, lawlessness and order), and linguistic analysis (phonological and morphological). Yet a very significant subtext in the narrative has been generally overlooked, despite the frequent references in the critical literature to Crane's having parodied the feud and showdown of local badman and town sheriff. Apparently only one critic, Tibbetts, noting here "a sort of visual comedy … close to slapstick" and "the comedy of the confrontation of the 'ancient antagonists' … involved in a burlesque of the Western feud," has even approached the story within the story.

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In "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky," Stephen Crane uses symbolism to develop his study of the changes effected on the West and the roles of its inhabitants by the encroachment of eastern society....