The Moon Is Down
Occupied by enemy troops, a small, peaceable town comes face-to-face with evil imposed from the outside—and betrayal born within the close-knit community In this masterful tale set in Norway during World War II, Steinbeck explores the effects of invasion on both the conquered and the conquerors. As he delves into the emotions of the German commander and the Norwegian traitor, and depicts the spirited patriotism of the Norwegian underground, Steinbeck uncovers profound, often unsettling truths about war—and about human nature. Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck’s self-described “celebration of the durability of democracy” had an extraordinary impact as Allied propaganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to suppress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of the book was punishable by death), The Moon is Down was secretly translated into French, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, German, Italian and Russian; hundreds of thousands of copies circulated throughout Europe, making it by far the most popular piece of propaganda under the occupation. Few literary works of our time have demonstrated so triumphantly the power of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force. This edition features an introduction by Donald V. Coers. For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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There was an increased interest in the use of propaganda in World War II primarily because Hitler was able to rise to eminence through the use of strategic propaganda that targeted a scapegoat and defined a national hero in Adolf Hitler. To understand more about the rise of Nazism through the use of propaganda, please view the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
The literary allusion to Macbeth is important to note because it sets the mood for the piece. To learn more about the differentiation between tone and mood, click on the video clip below. (This annotation contains a video)
Steinbeck is criticized by his contemporaries because he presented "humanized" versions of the oppressing forces in the text. But Steinbeck defends his characterization because he believes the German were "men, not supermen." And he believes that history proves him correct because "we know the Germans were men, and thus fallible, even defeatable." This characterization is a crucial element in the text.
The introduction uses historical accounts that illustrate how influential Steinbeck's text and therefore can be considered a successful piece of propaganda. Not only was the text copied and circulated covertly, but it was also banned and found copies were destroyed by the occupying German troops. The text was very popular in the nations that resemble the town in the text. Click on the link below to view photos from and read about life during the occupation and prior to the arrest of all Jewish males in Norway. (This annotation contains a link)
The text served two purposes: to foster hope and the belief that the occupying forces would be defeated and peace would be restored and through its circulation raise funds for the resistance movement.
The author of the introduction asks many questions in regards to the mistaken critics who lambasted Steinbeck's attempt to write propaganda and the reception the text received in Europe. Do you this dichotomy is the result of geography? Because the Americans are geographically removed from the atrocities of war, are they unable to truly comprehend how it feels to be occupied and fearful of losing your identity and way of life?
The value of democracy, "the worth of the individual," and the power of freedom are three paramount themes in the text. To review the definition of theme, please view the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
As you read, highlight important details that are part of the exposition. What details does Steinbeck omit about the setting, time period, characters, and invading army? Why do you think he omits these details? To review the elements of plot, please click on the video clip below. (This annotation contains a video)
What tone does the Doctor say the highlighted passage?
The town is taken easily and quickly for many reasons, but the primary reason is because of the reconnaissance completed by George Correll. Based on the Doctor's reaction, he is completely shocked that a man who was so ensconced in the community could betray them all. What does this reveal about the town? Include any inferences you make in your description of the exposition.
Which literary device does Steinbeck use to contrast the reactions of Madam Orden to Doctor Winter and Mayor Orden to the invasion and occupation of the town?
As the men and Madame Orden wait for Colonel Lanser to visit, Madame prepares as if she is meeting royalty or a head of state. She cares more about how she and her husband will be perceived by the Colonel than the fact that the town was invaded. This demonstrates how many people did not comprehend what was happening as the German troops invaded and occupied areas of Europe prior to arresting, detaining, and deporting the Jewish members of the community.
It is evident that the Mayor and Doctor Winter do not want to be in the presence of Mr. Corell because he betrayed the community and assisted in its invasion. What else is revealed by the dialogue between Colonel Lanser and Mr. Corell?
Colonel Lanser approaches Mayor Orden and insists that "we are going to keep your government" in order to circumvent trouble within the occupied area. He believes that the town will simply comply with the occupation if the Mayor does. The Mayor responds, "It would be interesting to see. I'd expect trouble." This is the first development of the themes of the power of freedom and the worth of the individual.
When the cook Annie throws boiling water at the soldiers, the Mayor refuses to discipline her because, "She'll quit" and "then we would have no cook." This illustrates what about the dynamics of the town?
Read the character descriptions of each of the men carefully. As the text progresses and conflicts emerge and develop, the men will be affected. Steinbeck was criticized for portraying the invading soldiers as human, but by doing so, he is able to develop the complexity of the characters which directly influences the development of the plot throughout the text. View the video clip below to review how characters can be developed throughout a text. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the characterization of Colonel Lanser and his prior experience in war, all of the following are characteristics of the soldiers of the invading army except
The mood among the men is light in a sense: Major Hunter is musing about his life and interests at home, Lieutenant Prackle is admiring a photo of a pinup girl, and there isn't a sense of urgency or secrecy among the men. Why do you think they are so relaxed?
Loft believes the people of the town are "calm and sensible because we are calm and sensible." Based on Loft's experience as a soldier, do you believe this is an accurate assessment? Use textual and historical evidence to support your response.
Steinbeck employs the literary device of a foil in order to contrast characters such as Lanser and Corell. It is evident that their perspectives about war are divergent; this is evidenced by Lanser and Corell's differing opinions about the killed soldiers. Neither men are adverse to killing people, but Lanser understands that killing people without a purpose may incite more trouble for the invading force.
Based on Corell's suggestion that he be appointed Mayor while the town is occupied, what can you infer about his motives for helping the invaliding forces?
Corell believes that the townspeople have been defeated. Lanser's anecdote about the elderly woman who killed twelve men before she was is an example of the motif of resistance. Throughout the text highlight reoccurring images or examples of resistance. This motif will help develop several themes within the text. To review the definition of motif, please view the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
A miner and member of the town murders an occupying soldier. His motivation is clear: he is a free man and cannot be ordered to work for a regime he does not support. The man's motivation for his actions supports which of the following themes?
What words would you use to describe the mood in the town during the occupation? How do you think your daily life may change if without warning your town, home, and businesses were occupied with enemy forces who would shoot you for a minor indiscretion?
Which of the following conflicts is revealed through the conversation between Annie and Joseph?
When Molly Morden visits the Mayor and informs him that he will sentence her husband Alex to death, it reveals the underground network that has quickly developed within the community. Do you think Steinbeck included this as a source of inspiration to the audience, or do you think that Steinbeck's writing reflects the situation that existed in occupied nations?
Lanser tells Mayor Orden, "I like you sir, and I respect you, but I have a job to do." This exemplifies Lanser's commitment to his orders and his duty. Is Mayor Orden a foil to his character? Use textual evidence to explain your answer.
Lanser is a complex and dynamic character because he believes in fulfilling his military duties, but he also acknowledges the limitations of the military strategy in regards to handling certain matters. This is illustrated when he tells the Mayor, " a man of a certain age and certain memories, is of no importance. I might agree with you, but that would change nothing." The essential difference between Mayor Orden and Lanser is their value of the individual's spirit.
Based on Loft's interaction with the other characters at Alex's "trial," he can be defined as what type of character?
Orden tells Alex, "You will make the people one." What does this indicate about Alex's death in terms of the structure of the text?
Alex Morden's death is a catalyst to unite the town against the occupying regime. This is another example of the resistance motif. Alex's death also exemplifies the themes of the power of freedom and the worth of the individual because he refuses to be enslaved and as a result becomes a martyr for the freedom's cause.
After the death of Alex Morden, the underground resistance movement grows, others are killed, and the town is no longer safe or idyllic. The mood among the soldiers is somber, ominous, and nostalgic for better times. What does Steinbeck convey about the soldier's actions through the extreme change in mood?
Tonder is obviously affected by the townspeople's loathing for the occupying force. This illustrates how naive and ill-prepared many of the soldiers were for the psychological warfare that the town could exact on them. Though Steinbeck is criticized for his portrayal of the soldiers as human beings rather than cold and senseless warriors, it is evident that the soldiers' fallibility as humans is key to their downfall.
Loft decides that he will prevent the men who work in the mine from purposely disrupting work in the mine by starving their families and providing meals for them at the mines. What does this illustrate about Loft's character? Based on the themes in the text, why won't this tactic work as a means of control and oppression? Use textual evidence to support your response.
Tonder is on the verge of hysteria because he does not feel safe though they have conquered the territory. Tonder's paranoia and the highlighted statement are examples of which literary device?
Chapter six is an integral element of the plot because factors such as the underground resistance and the morale of the soldiers will converge. The resilience of the people will finally emerge as a force that may expel the occupying regime.
Tonder asks Molly, "Can't we talk together like people?" What does he not understand?
The highlighted passage is interesting because it accentuates the effects of propaganda on the enemy soldiers. Tonder genuinely believes that the townspeople would appreciate their force once and not offer any resistance.
When Tonder is speaking to Molly he says, "I'm only a man, not a conquering man" and "we have a some little right to life in all this death." Her responses are examples of which literary device?
It is evident from the meeting in Molly's home that the underground movement is organized and determined to expel the enemy forces. This illustrates the themes of resilience of the human spirit and perseverance.
As a result of the tactics used on the townspeople, Mayor Orden and Doctor Winter both agree that "this is no honorable war" so "let us use the methods that have been used on us." This illustrates which negative result of the conflict between the enemy and the townspeople?
Based on the omniscient narration, Molly is about to exact her vengeance and revenge on the occupying force. This is a resolution to her conflict with the men who murdered her husband.
The soldiers infer the townspeople are "fools" and "that's why they lost so quickly." What characteristic do the occupying forces possess that will contribute to their downfall?
The Mayor and Doctor Winter asked for some type of weapon that could be used by the resistance and they receive sticks of dynamite dropped from above. What purpose does the dynamite serve aside from its literal purpose to destroy elements of the occupying army?
Read the highlighted passage. What does Lanser mean when he says, "We can't use it against them... They haven't conquered anybody"? Use textual evidence to support your response.
Lanser's perspective of the townspeople is based on his experience in previous wars. He knows that no matter who they think they are dealing with, the leadership will always underestimate their intelligence and their resiliency of the human spirit.
What does the highlighted passage imply about the effects of war?
Mr. Corell is similar to the SS Police officers. Many of the men who were part of the SS because of who they knew or their willingness to betray those they knew. The men rarely had military service and therefore relied on violence and fear to exert their authority. The SS did not consider the ramifications of their actions in a larger sense; they considered the immediate reprisals for their violence and then acted. For more information about the SS police, click not the link below. (This annotation contains a link)
The highlighted passage is an example of which literary device?
Doctor Winter and Mayor Orden both express the same sentiment: they are not the leaders of the resistance because in a democracy the people all lead. This is exemplified when Doctor Winter says, "They think that just because they have only one leader and one head, we are all like that...we have as many heads as we have people, and in time of need leaders pop up like mushrooms."
The men reminisce about the past indicates that they are well aware about their futures. What does their demeanor, tone, and actions indicate?
As the Mayor tries to remember the Apology of Socrates, both Doctor Winter and Colonel Lanser encourage him. What does this reveal about the similarities between the men? Use textual evidence to support your response.
The passage Mayor Orden was trying to recite from memory is from the Apology of Socrates. Socrates was brought upon trial for refusing to recognize the gods of the state and corrupting the youth. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. Below is a video clip of the apology. Consider its tone and implications. (This annotation contains a video)
The Mayor tells Lanser that he has "no choice of living or dying... but I do have a choice of how I do it." What theme does this exemplify?
Mayor Orden's last words to Mr. Winter are also said to be Socrates' final words. What can be inferred by their literary connection?