Andrew Gilbert's Reviews > The Moon Is Down

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
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Apr 22, 10

Read in January, 2010

In the shadow of The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden, The Moon is Down is a lesser known novel by John Steinbeck. Written in the midst of World War II, this novel delves into the psychology of both soldiers and civilians when a rival country invades a small village.

Though Steinbeck never openly refers to the invading army as Nazis, or even as a German army, his intentions are clear. Widely controversial at the time, this book not only explores the reaction of the villagers in the town that gets invaded, but it also humanizes the soldiers in the invading army.

Many contemporary critics believed Steinbeck to be un-patriotic due to the content of this book, however Steinbeck's intentions were far nobler. While the critics believed that the best form of propaganda was to make the Axis armies seem like a super-race that must be crushed, they failed to realize that the implication of the enemies as "supermen" carried with it the expectation of loss.

However, Steinbeck believed that humanizing the enemy would better raise morale. If we are humans that are prone to failures and mistakes, and the enemies are also human, then it stands to reason that our enemies may make failures and mistakes that could lead to their defeat.

According to history, Steinbeck seemed to prove his critics quite wrong. The Moon Is Down became one of the most successful propaganda tools used towards raising the morale of those people oppressed by the Axis powers. In some countries, merely possessing a bootlegged copy of the book was a crime punishable by death.

Though this novel may seem a little odd at first (few books tend to humanize the antagonist to the point of evoking sympathy from the reader), it is a novel well worth reading. While it allows for the unpleasant truth that our enemies, while opposing our views, are fellow human beings with similar hopes and dreams for their futures, it also highlights the will of the oppressed to overcome the oppressors and be granted the same liberties that all men should share.
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