How is Jack Potter described, and what is on his mind on the train from St. Louis to Yellow Sky? (Does this tell us anything about his character?)
How do the other passengers, the African American waiters and the station agent look at the married couple? Why do you think the writer has wanted to highlight this?
In some passages, the characters are presented as mere pawns exposed to forces beyond their control. This is typical of naturalist writing. Can you find some examples?
What does Scratchy Wilson represent in the story, and how does he react when he meets Jack’s bride?
Describe the setting. In what way is the landscape important to the story? Note, in the beginning, how the landscape seen from the train seems to be “sweeping into the east.” What does that indicate?
How did the men in the saloon react when they heard that Scratchy Wilson was drunk and looking for a fight? Why did they react differently?
How is Scratchy Wilson’s outfit described? How do you interpret this?
Why has the writer focused on the behavior of the dog outside the saloon? How do you interpret the line: “It was as if the surrounding stillness formed the arc of a tomb over him?” (Part three, line six)
There are many hints pointing to the fact that time is up for the myths and legends of the “Wild West." See if you can find some of them. (How can we, for example, interpret the last line of the story: “funnel-shaped tracks in the heavy sand”?
What does it imply that Scratchy Wilson is described as “a creature allowed a glimpse of another world”? (Why is he a "creature" - and what is "another world"?)
Which elements of the classic Western stereotypes can you find in the story? (See the introduction and follow link for more information.)
Where do you think this story breaks with the traditional rules of the Western genre?