Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

As elsewhere in Cozzens’s mature literary canon, the dominant theme in Morning, Noon, and Night is that of chance as the sole deciding factor in human existence. Hank Worthington attributes his rare success to nothing more or less than his having been in the right places at the right times. More than once, he recalls, he has narrowly missed boarding a plane that eventually crashed; during World War II, while he was on a brief document-carrying mission to North Africa, he left a command post barely five minutes before it was blown to bits by one of Rommel’s short-range bombs. In unstressed contrast to Hank’s experiences are those of his parents, smothered to death in a hotel fire, and his two grandchildren, dead in an air crash while en route to stay with their father. On other occasions, incidents of apparent ill fortune work out in Hank’s favor; had his uncle agreed to take him on at the bank, for example, he might well have lapsed into a groove there, never developing the innovative talents that propelled him into business for himself.

Implicit also in Morning, Noon, and Night, as in Cozzens’s previous novels, is an ingrained distrust in social change, often mistaken by Cozzens’s critics for hidebound political conservatism. Grounded in political thought both classical and modern, conditioned by observation and experience, Cozzens’s apparent conservatism is in fact less political, in a topical sense, than it is...

(The entire section is 509 words.)