Thursday, March 26, 2009

49 - The Winter of Our Discontent; John Steinbeck

The Hawley family is "Discontent". Ethan Hawley is working as a grocery clerk in the store he previously owned. The store now belongs to Marullo, an Italian immigrant who tries to teach Ethan what makes a successful businessman. Even Mr. Baker, the banker, has advice for Ethan: he tries to teach him how to be a good investor. It seems that everyone has an opinion on how Ethan Hawley can bring respect back to his family name. His wife is restless and doesn't like the fact that they are poor and living in a town where they were once respected. Ethan's son wants to go on television and get rich quick, his adolescent daughter is too secretive for his liking.

Steinbeck's protagonist, Ethan Allen Hawley, is a moral individual who has always done the right thing. This novel is set in New Baytown, a fictitious town near Long Island, a town that operates within a realm of corruption. Yet things have operated that way for so long that no one remembers that it is corrupt anymore. Ethan's family feels that he is too ethical for his own good. He has to choose between his current morals and adapting the definition of his morality.

Steinbeck captures a nation that is growing economically but bankrupt morally. Where this novel differs from other fall from grace novels is that the central character observes himself as a third party and slides down the slippery slope knowing full well the consequences. Steinbeck offers redemption in the form or Marullo, on being deported he gives the grocery store to Ethan Hawley. This happens just when Ethan is about to rob the bank.

A short novel worthy of praise addresses moral questions that really make you stop and think; the dialogue is brilliant.The characters are clever and witty, but at times I found the plot was very slow.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 3/25/09


  1. I'm a big fan of Steinbeck and loved this when I read it in high school. Sounds like it's time for a re-read...thanks for reminding me!

  2. I have had this book on my TBR list for years. You have motivated me to move up towards to the top.

  3. I have never read The Winter of Discontent. I would like to read it. So, another book is going on my list.

  4. You have made me want to read this. I am off to Kindle it!

  5. sounds character-driven- probably something i'd like :-)

  6. This is one I haven't read, but I'm intrigued by your synopsis. I love books with moral quandaries that make you think. I love the cover to that edition!

  7. Aha! In Reality Bites, there is a scene where Steve Zahn answers the phone and says, "Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent." It is one of my favorite movie lines, and I had no idea it came from a book! Now I know! I enjoyed The Grapes of Wrath and Travels with Charley (1/2 of how my cat got his name and I got my blog identity), so I'll add this to my list. Thanks for your review!

  8. I wasn't familiar with this particular novel by Steinbeck. It does sound like an interesting one. I will have to give it a try. Thanks for the great review, Diane.


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