Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
By contrast, Noon Wine features a hardscrabble Texas ranch far out in the country, inhabited by the decidedly nonaristocratic Thompson family. In all likelihood, the reality of Porter’s childhood is probably closer to this picture than to the one she constructs for Miranda. In contrast to the southern sensibilities implicit in Old Mortality, Noon Wine offers the life of plain dirt farmers trying to eke out livings from the soil. The isolation of the ranch provides a sense of the frontier rather than the flavor of the antebellum South.
*Deep South. The idea of the South plays a prominent role throughout Old Mortality. For example, New Orleans figures as the center of society for Miranda’s family. The city plays a triple role in the story: It is the place where Amy dies after her marriage, the location of the convent school that Miranda and her sister later attend, and the site of Miranda’s last glimpse of her Uncle Gabriel. In New Orleans, Miranda sees Gabriel not as the mythologized gallant of family memory, but as a drunk and seedy racer of horses. By offering these contrasts, Porter demonstrates how the mythology of the Deep South may be at odds with its reality.
Western city. Unnamed city in the American West used in another Miranda story, Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Details in this story allow readers to identify Denver as the story’s setting, although the city is never specifically named. During World War I, Porter lived in Denver, where she worked as a theater editor of the Rocky Mountain News–the same job she gives her character Miranda. It is also in the unnamed city that Miranda contracts the dreaded Spanish influenza, just as Porter did in Denver in 1918. Pale Horse, Pale Rider opens by connecting Miranda to her Texas roots. In a prophetic dream, she rides her horse Graylie across the plains in a race against the “pale rider,” death. Her waking reality in the unnamed city assumes a dreamlike fugue state as she perceives herself and those around her through the fog of the influenza that is overwhelming her body.
Porter’s choice of the unnamed western city is an important one for the story. The city is clearly in a place of natural beauty. In addition, the city seems remote from the rest of the country. The vaudevillians Miranda reviews refer to the city as the “boondocks.” These edenic images contrast starkly with the reality the rest of the country faces. Porter’s use of the isolated Western city lets her demonstrate how deeply World War I infiltrates even the lives of common people living at the edges of their culture.
In many ways, the evil of the war is present metaphorically in the unseen, deadly virus that ravages not only the large coastal cities but the interior of the country as well. Moreover, the pestilence kills indiscriminately, soldiers and civilians alike, in their very homes, thousands of miles from the front lines. The cost of the war is higher than anyone could have expected, and Porter’s story, with its dreamy, impressionistic prose brought about by Miranda’s illness, explores life and death and life after death.