[Essay In My heart]
A Book Review: The Moon is Down
‘The Moon is Down’ is a novella-play originally written for theatrical use by American novelist John Steinbeck set in Narvik, a seaside town in Norway in 1942. It was published by Viking Press in March 1942.
Published just 80 years ago, this short story exposes the brutality and absurdity of war and the people's relentless struggle for freedom and peace. Coincidentally, it is a novel that makes you think a lot about the current war situation, where the grim and heartbreaking news of the indiscriminate airstrikes and massacres of the Russian army that invaded Ukraine on February 24th comes in every moment. Does history always repeat itself?
This short novel is based on a true story that took place in a small fishing village in Norway in World War II. Steinbeck himself had experienced in the war as a war correspondent in the Vietnam War, so in this novel, the depiction of human psychology that changes depending on the situation through the subtle and rough conflicts and struggles between the occupying forces and the villagers is described explicitly.
The story begins with the 12 soldiers guarding the village, with only three surviving due to a surprise attack by the invading forces, while the rest are killed or wounded, and the village is quickly occupied by the invading forces. Soon after, the invading soldiers, led by colonel-level aggressor officers, try to control the village by forcibly installing a situation room in the mayor's office of the village.
There is a good coal mine in the village, so the invading army meticulously plans and executes the work of mobilizing villagers to dig up the coal and release it through the village's port as military supplies for warfare. Naturally, the villagers' anger and resistance against the harsh actions of the invading forces reach their peak, and the mayor of the village is troubled by being forced to play a mediating role among the invading forces and the villagers by the head of the occupying force.
The villagers' resistance to the occupying forces grows fiercer day by day while the occupation forces are in the process of conspiring to appoint one of the villagers as a new mayor, who has close ties with the invading forces. In this time of confusion and deception, the mayor and his best friend and village keeper Doctor Winter do not give in to the conciliation and intimidation of the invading forces to the end. The story ends with a dramatic and intense scene that which the invading soldiers are away dragging Mayor Orden and Doctor Winter.
In the novel, not only the horror of war, but also the naked psychological state of the soldiers who participated in the war, and the pain of ordinary villagers who have to live in pain and hunger suddenly overnight due to the war are described in detail. Steinbeck realistically portrays how precious the peace and freedom we feel in our daily lives, and how precious it is to satisfy basic human desires to eat, wear, and sleep comfortably.
For whatever reason, war should never happen. In this novel, the leader of the invading army is described as 'The Leader.’ During Doctor Winter's last conversation with Mayor Orden, who was forcibly taken out by an invading soldier, he asked Mayor Orden if he still remembered a question that he had asked him in the past. Mayor Orden replied, "The debt will be paid. ” (I will pay off the debt.) Then Dr. Winter nodded quietly to his last words, “Yes, you remembered. The debt shall be paid.” (Yeah, that is right, you remember. It was, 'I'm going to pay the debt.'") is answered.
One thought I had while reading this novel. I was intrigued by the title of this novel, 'The Moon Is Down.’ Why did Steinbeck give it such a title? I think the moon is mentioned only once in the novel. It is a personal opinion, but in the evening, a quiet little village in Norway, where they lived enjoying peace and freedom to the fullest under the peaceful moonlight, is quickly deprived of all this peace and freedom and plunged into a world of chaos and oppression. In this dark and sullen story, I imagine that the title of the novel would have been described as 'the falling (fading) moon' in order to symbolically represent the atmosphere of the background in which the story unfolds.
Recently, the fact that this novel by John Steinbeck has been translated into many languages and has reminded people of the world's longing for freedom and peace how to resist the invading forces is re-examined in connection with the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Charles Edel published the article "President Zelensky's leadership of Ukraine's resistance is a testament to democracy" in The Washington Post on March 1, 2022. It is expressing his opinion that when communities (villages, cities, countries, the world) find themselves in a difficult and dangerous situation, the role of a good leader who is fully supported by community members is especially important to successfully overcome difficulties.
Freedom and peace are not free at all.
March 18, 2022