Humor in Stephen Crane's "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky"

Essay by veryfat September 2004

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Stephen Crane's short story "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" is considered by many to be a masterpiece. One writer even called it "the greatest story ever written." One of the reasons the story is so good is that Crane uses humor to make some serious points about people in general and the Old West in particular.

In the first part of the story, Crane portrays Jack Potter and his new wife as humorous characters. Not only are they awkward with each other, but they are also completely out of place in the fancy railroad car that is taking them to the Yellow Sky. Crane makes us see them through the eyes of the condescending porter and the other passengers, who keep giving the couple "stares or derisive enjoyment". Jack's fear about how the people of Yellow Sky will react to his marriage is also amusing because we would expect a town marshal to be brave, not afraid of the people he is paid to protect.

Part II presents another comical situation- a lone drunk is able to scare a whole town just because Jack Potter is away. This situation is especially funny because of an ironic contrast that the reader already knows about. The man the townspeople are depending on to protect them is the same man we have just learned is afraid to tell them he is married. Part II also includes the comical character of the unsuspecting traveling salesman, whose increasingly agitated questions about Scratchy Wilson set the state for the confrontation the reader knows will occur. Crane is in effect setting us up for the "punch line" of his story. First we hear about the raging, fearsome drunk who is terrorizing the town- and then we see him.

In Part III we get...