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The Winter of Our Discontent by John…
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The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)

by John Steinbeck

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Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
The brilliance of John Steinbeck intimidates me. I spend a great deal of my time while reading his books nodding my head in agreement and gasping in awe at how he tackles the profound and the everyday with the same amount of elan.

First off, I enjoyed this story. I cared about Ethan Allen Hawley, and not just his person but his soul. I wanted him to emerge unscathed even though I knew he could not, because no one can compromise his own morality and remain unsoiled. I cried for what I knew was his major loss and yet I ended still hoping he could find some way to live with what he had done without resorting to lying to himself, which would only deepen the corruption.

This is the world he lives in, and I dare say it is the world we live in as well:
The Town Manager sold equipment to the township, and the judges fixed traffic tickets as they had for so long that they did not remember it as illegal practice--at least the books said it was. Being normal men, they surely did not consider it immoral. All men are moral. Only their neighbors are not.

How much immorality is too much? Do the ends justify the means? Is your sin less egregious if you are sinning against a sinner? And, to quote Mark 8:36, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

There is a reason John Steinbeck is considered one of the great American authors. It has something to do with his ability to tell a fascinating tale and still pack so many unobtrusive, salient issues into its telling.

Just one more quote, because who wouldn't appreciate this kind of imagery: "The young boys, bleeding with sap, sit on the stools of Tanger's Drugstore ingesting future pimples through straws. They watch the girls with level goat-eyes and make disparaging remarks to one another while their insides whimper with longing." Digest that. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (May 2009):
- After serving on the battlefields of WWII, Ethan A Hawley has come home, mismanaged his family grocery into bankruptcy, and finds himself working several years for his 'wop' Italian boss Marullo, as a lowly clerk. Mr Baker, banker across the alley, badgers Ethan to invest money inherited by wife Mary, insinuating the the Hawley family name is at stake.
- From this point, Ethan's inclination, spurred on by Mr Baker, family grumblings at home, and the unsolicited portent of fortune by a saucy friend, is to create a turnaround in his lot by any means at hand. Despite Ethan's devil-may-care exterior, deep and sometimes dark rumination resides inside, dogging him day and night. The more Ethan dwells on the ruin of his ancient family line, .. the more his desperate scheming seems reasonable. His covert betrayals quickly reverse his financial plight, but at what costs? Is he now simply one of them?
- Steinbeck tacks a very cynical course through this novel. To Ethan, humanity has withered to pure selfishness. Very late in the story he crystallizes much of Steinbeck's tone: "It isn't true that there's a community of light, a bonfire of the world. Everyone carries his own, his lonely own."
- To me, this was fairly engaging but not monumental. I echo another review that, despite a first person narrative, the reader doesn't get into the deepest recesses of Ethan. In many ways, this novel was a capstone for Steinbeck, as it prompted his winning the Nobel, a prize deserved for a career, perhaps not for this work. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | May 13, 2018 |
in my top three Steinbeck novels
  frahealee | Dec 3, 2017 |
Book Description
Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of Steinbeck's last novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With Ethan no longer a member of Long Island's aristocratic class, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards. Set in Steinbeck's contemporary 1960 America, the novel explores the tenuous line between private and public honesty, and today ranks alongside his most acclaimed works of penetrating insight into the American condition.

My Review
This may not be Steinbeck's best novel, but it surely is one in which we can identify with the main character of Ethan Allen Hawley and his personal struggle of morality between what is right and wrong. It is a relevant story for the 50's but speaks also to the lack of moral integrity of today's corrupt standards. Ethan's character seemed more developed than the others which may be intentional and the plot had many twists and turns. The novel is a quick read but very thought provoking. The ending had an impact which is sadly understandable. I have read Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden but this novel is so different and won Steinbeck a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature which I believe was an award for his lifetime contribution. I do look forward to reading more of his books in the near future. I would highly recommend this book to those who like stories with life lessons. ( )
  EadieB | Apr 8, 2017 |
The passage of decades has turned John Steinbeck's "The Winter of Our Discontent," a contemporary novel about modern trends when it was published in 1961, into a historical novel, a look back at how American life used to be. Yet I am also struck, reading it now all these years later, at what a prophetic novel it was. Steinbeck had his hand on the pulse of the nation. He seemed to know that the discontent he describes in his characters will sweep the country in the 1960s. He wants to blame President Eisenhower for this, but that seems simplistic. More likely it was caused by the period of peace and prosperity, following years of Depression and war, and the hard moral choices required by these sudden good times.

The novel tells of one man's moral choices. Ethan Allen Hawley works as a grocery store clerk, a situation brought about because his father lost the Hawley family fortune. Every day he hears comments about his family's prosperous past and complaints from his wife and children about their relative poverty. It is 1960, and they still do not own a television.

Hawley recalls that as a loyal soldier during the war he had killed enemy soldiers, but he has not killed anyone since then. Killing other men then did not make him an evil man now. Similarly, he reasons, if he can make a small fortune by illegal or immoral means, he can still be a good citizen later when he builds on that fortune and reclaims his place in society. He seriously contemplates robbing the bank next to his store, then finds a way to wealth that will be safer and yet, if anything, more unethical.

Steinbeck structures his plot so that many related elements all happen at once -- an alcoholic friend happens to own the only land in the area suitable for an airport, the owner of the grocery may have entered the United States illegally some 40 years before, town officials are indicted for corruption, Hawley's son enters a national citizenship essay contest and, among other developments, the local banker, whose family may have been responsible for the Hawley family's bankruptcy, is wheeling and dealing to try to build an even larger fortune. That so much happens, even on the same holiday weekend, seems a bit of a stretch, giving "The Winter of Our Discontent" the feel not so much of a modern novel as of a fable, like so many of Steinbeck's other notable works. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Apr 4, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steinbeck, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bianciardi, LucianoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herman, Rein F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shillinglaw, SusanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Silveira, BrennoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Readers seeking to identify the fictional people and places here described would do better to inspect their own communities and search their own hearts, for this book is about a large part of America today.
Dedication
To Beth, my sister, whose light burns clear
First words
When the fair gold morning of April stirred Mary Hawley awake, she turned over to her husband and saw him, little fingers pulling a frog mouth at her.
Quotations
You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Ethan Hawley is a war veteran, grocery store clerk, husband, and father, with much to say about Americans, consumerism, and the characters of his small seaside town. Themes of inadequacy, guilt, and deception are prominent as Ethan attempts to fulfill the expectations of his ancestors as well as his wife and children. "No one wants advice, only corroboration."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039482, Paperback)

From a swashbuckling pirate fantasy to a meditation on American morality?two classic Steinbeck novels make their black spine debuts

IN AWARDING John Steinbeck the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Nobel committee stated that with The Winter of Our Discontent, he had ?resumed his position as an independent expounder of the truth, with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American.?

Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of the novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With the decline in their status, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:29 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

From the Publisher: From a swashbuckling pirate fantasy to a meditation on American morality-two classic Steinbeck novels make their black spine debuts. In awarding John Steinbeck the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Nobel committee stated that with The Winter of Our Discontent, he had "resumed his position as an independent expounder of the truth, with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American." Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of the novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With the decline in their status, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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