The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky | Plot Summary & Analysis

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Jack Potter is the marshal of Yellow Sky which is a town in Texas during the settlement of the Old West. "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" begins on a train. Jack is returning from a trip to San Antonio. The reader learns that he took the trip to meet a woman he had fallen in love with through correspondence. While Jack was in San Antonio, he and the woman had gotten married. On the return trip to Yellow Sky, they are nervous and excited about their new life together. Jack reflects on his position in the town. He believes the townsfolk will be upset with him for getting married without letting them know first.

Jack and Jack's bride talk on their trip and eat in the dining car. Jack decides that he will take his new bride straight home when the train stops in Yellow Sky. He will announce his marriage and stay home until everyone has time to adjust to the news.

Around the time Jack and Jack's bride arrive in Yellow Sky, several men are in the saloon drinking. A salesman is a new arrival in the town. The young man announces at the door that Scratchy Wilson is drunk. The other men explain to the salesman that Scratchy Wilson likes to fight when he is drunk. They close the door and take cover in case he shoots at the saloon.

Scratchy Wilson walks through the street screaming and shooting. He tries to get into the saloon but cannot. He thinks of Jack Potter who he considers his enemy. He walks to Jack's house so he can fight him there.

Jack and Jack's bride walk to the house after Scratchy Wilson. Scratchy Wilson confronts Jack who tells him that he does not want to fight because he does not have his gun and just got married. To his surprise Scratchy Wilson abandons the fight and says it is because Jack is now married.



Most stories set in the Old West are dramatic. Crane puts a twist on the classic "shoot 'em up" Western by adding comedy and a twist at the end. The nervousness of the couple over the town's expected reaction to their wedding is the first comedic scene. Both Jack Potter and Jack's bride are wide-eyed while observing the inside of the train car and interacting with the server in the dining car. Crane even points out that the pair may seem funny to others. The humor extends throughout the story with the salesman's actions when Scratchy Wilson arrives and his scene in the town. Wilson paints a scary figure, but that is offset by his drunkenness when he walks through the town. Crane includes a twist at the end. In reading the story, the expected outcome is that Wilson will shoot either Jack or his new bride, but Wilson instead gives up almost too easily when he learns of the wedding. This is anticlimactic but also paints a humorous picture of the drunken man dropping his gun when he is surprised by the news. Then he picks it up and resolves to end the feud with the lawman.


Crane offers an element of surprise throughout "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky." Before the start of the action of the story, Jack Potter surprises himself by quickly marrying the woman he goes to meet. Jack's bride believes it is part of her wifely duty to show surprise when he tells her the time they should arrive in Yellow Sky. Jack Potter believes that the townspeople will be shocked to learn of his marriage. The salesman does not expect someone like Scratchy Wilson to show up in town shooting a gun. The element of surprise continues when Scratchy Wilson finds out that Jack Potter is married and when Scratchy Wilson gives up the fight at this news.

Parallel to Writer's Life

Crane wrote "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" shortly after he met his common-law wife Cora Taylor. Jack Potter's quick marriage and his fear of the townspeople's reaction to his marriage may parallel Crane's fears of introducing his new love interest to others. Taylor was still married to another man and owned a brothel. Some critics believe that Crane wrote this story as an illustration of his nervousness about Taylor's societal status.

The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675


1 Jack Potter and Jack's bride make their journey by train to Yellow Sky.

Rising Action

2 Jack Potter grows more nervous as they travel and decides on a plan for introducing his wife to the town.

3 Jack Potter and Jack's bride arrive and make their way to his home.

4 Scratchy Wilson arrives in town and looks for a fight.


5 Scratchy Wilson goes to Jack Potter's house and is followed soon after by Jack Potter and Jack's bride.

Falling Action

6 Jack Potter tells Scratchy that he is now married.


7 Scratchy Wilson decides that he will no longer fight Jack Potter and walks away.

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