Themes in Stephen Crane's "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" include the rapid transformation of America, the passing of an era and the encroachment of eastern civilization on western lands. Another theme concerns different perspectives on the institution of marriage.
"The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" is a stereotypical revenge story set in the frontier and populated with characters typically found in westerns, such as sheriffs and moustache-twirling villains. Though the town is small, it is accessible by train, which brings to town evidence of modernization, such as flannel shirts and red-topped boots. Scratchy Wilson refuses to acknowledge the changes taking place in Yellow Sky and in the rest of the country, and firmly set in his old ways, he decides to kill the town's former sheriff, Jack.
Stephen Crane pits Scratchy and Jack against each other, except Jack refuses to play along. Though Scratchy wants a gunfight to settle their differences, Jack confesses that he no longer carries a gun. After spending time in the east away from Yellow Sky, he returns having learned a different way to live. He returns to Yellow Sky more civilized and willing to put away "childish things" such as guns.
Scratchy refuses to kill Jack once he learns that Jack is married, but his decision has less to do with sentimentality or romance than it does with his inability to understand why someone like Jack, or anyone really, would choose to get married. Here, marriage, like modernization, catches Scratchy by surprise and gives him no choice but to adapt his plans and make do with the new status quo.