“The Moon is Down” by John Steinbeck, 8/10

At the peak of what seems to be a World War, a small and somewhat isolated village town sits untouched. This town is run by the Mayor Orden, and his various staff members and friends. The town, previously unaffected by the ongoing war has been invaded. Enemy soldiers have begun occupation of the village. The Captain of the troops and a select group of soldiers occupy the Mayor’s house. They do not harm the town, they simply want to control it. The Captain addresses the Mayor, asking him to extend compromise and ask the people of the town to cooperate. Mayor Orden resists. The novel focuses mainly on the troubles the Mayor and his people face. War finally affects their town. Soldiers station themselves through the village. They take control of the coal, the town’s main export and resource, and riots break out. The true nature of humanity shows as blood is shed in a formerly peaceful town, and a Mayor watches, helpless. The Moon is Down is a book about rebellion and the power people have, whether they know it or not. It tells of the true spirit of war and facts of human nature. The novel was described by the author as a “celebration of the durability of democracy.” Written at the height of World War II, The Moon is Down circulated Europe and became a piece of propaganda for the Allies. Because of its meaning, the novel became contraband. Possession of this novel was even punishable by death in Fascist Italy.
This outlawed novel allowed (and still does) people to see a different perspective on wartime life. Instead of the battlefield, with constant bloodshed and killing, it reveals the subtler side of conflict. A completely different, more domestic side that many tend to overlook when observing war.To make people really acknowledge this aspect, Steinbeck does not name his small village town. Instead, he leaves its name and details to the reader to imagine. Many parts of the landscape and location are not described in the slightest. Doing this gives the reader the opportunity to make the village their own. It is easier for one to feel the emotions of characters and see the things the characters do when they relate to them. It is easier for a person to realize the truth of war when it happens in their own backyard. John Steinbeck allows the reader to see without having to experience, so they can realize the horrors that occur. To me, this made the book more interesting. It felt impactful, and made me too recognize, if I had not before, how war affects so many.
John Steinbeck uses many literary devices to enhance his writing, but many need to be interpreted. His symbols are very subtle, yet make perfect sense. If one hopes to read The Moon is Down as light reading, don’t get your hopes up. It may be short, and the symbols, metaphors, and mood may be subtle, but do not think for one second that it is an easy read. Steinbeck’s word choice alone can trip up a reader. He chooses each word with a certain passion, so they create a beautiful song. It can be a bit overwhelming though. Because each word holds such meaning, they can make the book harder to understand, and while reading I found myself having to reread certain sections. For that reason, this is a book that is definitely recommended for higher level readers. Younger readers may not have the capacity to appreciate such a novel. The Moon is Down caters specifically to those who care about the world around them, and are able to understand the unwritten meanings that are so prevalent in many of Steinbeck’s works.
All in all, The Moon is Down deserves its 8/10 stars. It is a wonderful, historically relevant novel, that will leave any reader in awe of the incredible talent that is John Steinbeck. Many authors try and fail to achieve the level of pure truth and sincerity that drip from every word Steinbeck writes. A reader comes away from this novel with many things, true storytelling being one.

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