Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Noon Wine” deals primarily with human fallibility. For nine years, the Thompson farm is a virtual paradise. Then Hatch arrives and sets in motion the events that destroy the characters. The faults of the Thompsons and Helton, when brought into conflict with the amorality of Hatch, dominate their actions and lead to their downfall. Hatch helps to bring about his own death by his lack of respect for humanity, which turns Thompson against him. The farmer is consumed by worry over how he appears to others. His wife turns her stern moral code against herself by condemning rather than forgiving, and, in the process, divides and demoralizes the family. Helton, despite all that he does for the Thompsons, puts them in jeopardy with his silent madness.

Thompson’s concern for appearances is his major fault. Before Helton takes over, he is unable to make the farm pay because of his aversion for most types of work. He limits his fields of activity according to what looks proper from the perspective of a proud landowner. Thus, when Hatch poses a threat to his happiness, violence follows. Thompson is not sure if he tried to protect Helton because of benevolence or self-interest. The legal exoneration does not eliminate the doubt. Although he cannot convince himself of his innocence, he literally goes crazy trying to convince everyone else. His family’s failure to support him leads to the suicide.

Mrs. Thompson’s illness represents her quarrel with...

(The entire section is 538 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Noon Wine Porter examines the theme of guilt, the adulterated nature of human motivation. Essentially a good man, Mr. Thompson...

(The entire section is 116 words.)