High Noon Essay, Research Paper
High Noon is one of the western films that can move you by its existentialist themes, where an individual’s values are above the societal norms and where the authenticity of being is existence. This is the story of a man who creates his own choices and stands up for the right reason when he is confronting such limit-situations as chance, suffering, conflict, guilt, and death. He is the town’s marshal, Will Kane, who marries a beautiful Quaker girl in the courtroom. The couple plans to move away to a new town and settle down to have a family. During the celebration, the outlaw Frank Miller is announced to come in town while the gunmen supporting him are already in town waiting for him. Kane is encouraged to get out of town by the moral forces in town, but he has second thoughts. He tells Amy that he’s got to go back; the honeymoon will have to wait until his 12 o’clock showdown. The attitude of his wife is that she begs him not to be a hero, handing him an ultimatum on her wedding day. If he won’t go away with her, she will go alone by the train, the one that leaves at twelve noon. He resolutely answers her, “I’ve got to stay.” Kane, the anti-hero, is counting on getting special deputies sworn in to assist him.
Everything hinges on midday. The suspense builds and the tension mounts as the clock ticks ever closer to the inevitable fate of high noon. The passing of the time symbolizes the idea of mortality, which is a form of expressionism. Even the judge who sentenced Miller and who is a mirror of society’s morals is not willing to take a risk at all by remaining in town. The judge is rationalizing his departure by recalling what Miller had done in the past to those who wronged him. Furthermore, the young deputy Pell provides no support because Kane passed him over as his successor in favor of a stranger from out of town. The men in the saloon and the congregation at the church also represent the imperfect – always weak, dependent and inadequate. Their existence is guided by an unauthentic practice, determined by habit and cultural conditioning. The “ordinary” townspeople are confronted by the limitation of freedom such as death, which is the source of their own dread, and as a result, they choose to avoid pain and experience pleasure. Kane is rejected by everyone in the nihilistic societal crowd. Some people from the church rationalize their noninvolvement as a means to sustain a greater morality by placing themselves above such barbarian violence and bloodshed. The last man Kane sees is the retired marshal Howe who is being very cynical, suggesting also to Kane to leave town. Kane summarizes his plight: “Listen, the judge has left town, Harvey’s quit, and I’m havin’ trouble gettin’ deputies.” Kane begins to understand that he will be left alone. In his concrete situation he had appealed to others for possible agreement and aid. Kane understands that his reason is bound by human action. He is making his own free choice even though in actuality there is uncertainty and risk. He is ready to accept the consequences of his choices, even if he doesn’t what those consequences might be. He feels to live and struggle unceasingly in such failure and risk is to exist as a man. The only person offering help is a teen-age boy who desires to assist. His desire to take action shows his desire to do something to help. He is ready to sacrifice and take his own responsibility creating in this way an authentic Existenz. Meanwhile, Amy confronts Helen, Kane’s previous honey and asks if Kane is staying because of her. Helen explains that she is leaving in the same noon train. She advises Amy to stay by her husband and support him, saying, “What kind of woman are you? How can you leave him like this?.” The marshal’s former lover represents the unauthentic person who does not sacrifice everything for freedom; in another words she does not reflect the existential, yet informed, choice as a personal philosophy of life. Frank Miller and the others are not also reflecting the authenticity of action, the sacrificial expression of freedom. Kane gets angry at Harvey when he insists that Kane join him and the crowd and saddle a horse to leave town in order to avoid a showdown. A few minutes before twelve noon, tension and fear permeates Hadleyville. The silence is penetrated by the noon train’s whistle. Kane writes his last will and testament in his office, and places it in an envelope on which he scrawls “To be opened only in the event of my death.” This equates with an existentialist theme where Kane is confronted by the limits of freedom such as his own death. Kane, betrayed and alone, walks up the deserted street to meet the four killers and there is no one to come to his aid: neither the Judge, his immature deputy, nor any of the townspeople. Amy kills one of the gunman, putting aside her Quaker belief in order to protect her husband and save his life. Miller holds Amy hostage. Amy distracts Miller, and Kane fires two shots killing him. Kane and Amy embrace and the townspeople begin to appear from their hiding places. Then Kane reaches for his badge, takes it off and tosses it into the street. His work is done in Hadleyville. He then leaves in a buggy with Amy without looking back. Kane represents the constitute of spontaneous choice, the authenticity of himself is realizing his own potential in liberty. His life and activity make sense in the historical context as a participation in the continuity of man’s life as being-oneself.
High Noon is representative of man’s existence in the world related to his being with others. Because man has freedom, his acts are always limited to certain conditions, by uncertainties and risks, forces and moral principles. The personal liberty compels the individual to make choices, and the authentic action is what the self brings about in recognizing its own potentiality for being. Ultimately, the issue of communication leads to the relation of the self to others.