Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

The Moon Is Down
By John Steinbeck

First Published: 1942
ISBN: 0140187464

Publisher: Penguin/1995

Pages: 112

It is lesser known than some of Steinbeck's other works, but it can be compared with his best. The story moves with good pace, the portrayals are effective and the story rises to make powerfully its eternal point about human liberty. The book is an assertion of freedom and human spirit. This may be the most direct, concise and effective piece of mass propaganda ever written but even after more than six decades, this novel is just as relevant and just as compelling.

"The Moon is Down" opens with the Germans invading a small village (resembling Norway) by the sea to tap its coal resources for the war. The narrative is dramatic, conversational with minimal description. To begin with, the German soldier is depicted as almost human- soldiers getting homesick, trying to understand the orders they must follow, complaining about the weather, and wondering if their mail will arrive on time. When Berlin exerts more and more pressure to take out the coal, only the Germans resort to harsher methods to acquire coal and the townspeople toughen their resistance in defence of freedom...

For a short novel, it has well etched out characters. These include the German commander, Colonel Lanser, a learned man , quick to obey orders but having inner doubts about aims of war and several members of Colonel Lanser's Officer Corps, who are full of themselves and of military ambition, while others are lonely and feel need for the companionship of a woman. Then there is Corell, the local who collaborates with the Germans and helps in the invasion. Mayor Orden, his friend, Dr Winter, and a woman of indomitable spirit, Molly, whose husband has been shot by the invaders are very endearing to the reader despite their dilemma. Steinbeck reveals the complex relationship among invading troops, civil authorities and the civilian population.

It brings home starkly the point, how the conquerors, who often believe the conquered will welcome them with open arms, instead find themselves at the receiving end of hate and guerrilla warfare. One cannot but help thinking about the prevailing situation in Iraq.