Trampling out the Vintage: Revenge and Resentment in 'High Noon'

Simon Petch

Abstract


Revenge is the mainspring of the plot of High Noon, but resentment is the emotion at the conceptual core of the film. In the words of the song, “The noon-day train will bring Frank Miller” to carry out his sworn revenge against Marshal Kane, who five years previously arrested him, and presumably against Judge Mettrick, who sentenced him to death. This capital sentence, which was elsewhere commuted to life, has now been transmuted to a pardon. The processes and pressures through which the original sentence has been nullified are – like many of the film’s details – unexplained. But the film is much more focused on the threat of violence and disorder that follows from this apparently political decision than it is on revenge. It is this threat that creates and promotes resentment in Hadleyville, both as an emotion that several individual characters feel against Marshal Kane, and as a more subtle and pervasive structure of social feeling.

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