Christina's Reviews > The Moon is Down

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
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Jun 29, 09

bookshelves: 2009, fiction, library
Recommended for: Steinbeck fans and anybody who believes war is not the answer.
Read in June, 2009, read count: 2 at least

If all propaganda was this intelligent and well-written, human beings could stand up a bit taller and a bit prouder. Steinbeck wrote this as during WWII to support the people and countries occupied by Nazi-Germany - Denmark being one of them - and he did a marvellous job.

The book is about a small, peaceful town in a small, peaceful country which is occupied by a conquering force - helped on the way by a traitor in the town. At first, the town people are surprised and not really able to grasp it all: The people are confused now. They have lived at peace so long that they do not quite believe in war. They will learn and then they will not be confused any more.(10-11) And so it goes - the people have very little experience in war and none at all in defeat (1), as Steinbeck writes in the beginning, but they learn. And the conquering force instead discovers what's it like to deal with a people hating them and having to constantly look over one's shoulder.
The book follows both the conquerors and the conquered people. The leaders - Colonel Lanser and Mayor Orden - are both portrayed as decent and civilised people, both caught up in the war without the opportunity to do different. They both seem a bit tragic - Colonel Lanser because he's been in war before and know that the thinks he and his soldiers do to keep the situation under control are without effect but he's powerless to change the cause of events. Mayor Orden is just a simple man, mayor of a small town and with no experience. But he also has a role to play and play it he must - even if it means dire consequences for himself. Both men have a set of determined actions to play out and both are unable to escape. A very well-written scene illustrating the similarities between the two men is when Mayor Orden and his longtime friend Doctor Winter try to remember Socrates' speech from Apology and Colonel Lanser enters the room and help them and together with Winter wish for Orden to remember it all... Socrates himself got caught in a web he couldn't escape - and so are these men.

This is not so much a propaganda against Nazi-Germany as it is against war. It's clear that Steinbeck viewed war as unable to solve any conflict and that it just meant playing out a series of pre-determined actions, each action causing a set counter-action so nothing new will ever come of war, innocent people will just be caught up in the actions of their commanders. And the reason the aggressors will never succeed is that they try the one impossible job in the world, the one thing that can't be done - and that is [t:]o break a mans spirit permanently (54). I guess this sentence is one of the most important ones in the book - and what was part of keeping it so heavily circulated in several countries during WWII. Even when it looks the darkest, there will always come a light later on... The human spirit cannot be locked down and kept away from the light - and between free men, there is always new leaders ready to lead the people against the oppressors.

A beautiful and well-written novella that I enjoyed re-reading and highly recommend.
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Reading Progress

06/29/2009 page 1
0.87% "Read this one in school and really liked it. Looking forward to this re-read as part of my Steinbeck summer."
06/29/2009 page 1
0.87% ""...having very little experience in war and none at all in defeat...""
06/29/2009 page 3
2.61% ""Joseph habitually scowled at furniture, expecting it to be impertinent, mischievous, or dusty.""
06/29/2009 page 10
8.7% ""The people are confused now. They have lived at peace so long that they do not quite believe in war. They will learn and then they will...""
06/29/2009 page 54
46.96% ""... the one impossible job in the world, the one thing that can't be done. /.../ To break a man's spirit permanently."" 3 comments

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