The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky by Stephen Crane, 1898
The magic trick:
Eviscerating stereotypical masculinity
Crane is a master of considering what constitutes manhood. Every story – whether it’s on a boat in the old west or the freakin’ Civil War – it all comes down to the pressures of masculinity.
“The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky” creates its tension through the contrast of two very different worlds. The entire first half of the story is marital bliss. Jack and his new bride reveling in their love and the luxuries afforded to them by the Pullman train car.
Soon, though, we find that Jack has a head full of stress. He knows what they are returning home to. It’s the other world – the one where people settle their scores with guns.
The contrast is interesting, obviously it drives the narrative. But it also provides the author with a chance to skewer stereotypical masculinity. I mean he just eviscerates it in the final scene. Great stuff. And that’s quite a trick on Crane’s part.
The barkeeper went to the door and locked and barred it. Reaching out of the window, he pulled in heavy wooden shutters and barred them. Immediately a solemn, chapel-like gloom was upon the place. The drummer was looking from one to another.
“But, say,” he cried, “what is this, anyhow? You don’t mean there is going to be a gun-fight?”
“Don’t know whether there’ll be a fight or not,” answered one man grimly. “But there’ll be some shootin’ – some good shootin’.”
The young man who had warned them waved his hand. “Oh, there’ll be a fight fast enough if anyone wants it. Anybody can get a fight out there in the street. There’s a fight just waiting.”
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