The Moon is Down

By John Steinbeck

Words from the achiever

“My high school English teacher was an elderly, gracious woman named Elvira Whiting. One day, Mrs. Whiting asked me to come back after class to see her. I didn’t have any idea what she wanted. She engaged in a little polite conversation, and then she said, “What do you read? What have you been reading lately?” And I said, “Well, not much.” Really, I didn’t read anything other than what was necessary to get by in school. And she said, “Well, I’d like you to consider reading a book,” and she handed me a book. She made it clear I didn’t have to read it. It wasn’t part of an assignment. But I liked her and wanted very much to please her, so I said I would do it. And she said, “When you finish, come back and tell me about it.” The title of it was The Moon Is Down. It was a short novel by John Steinbeck, a fictionalized account of the Nazi occupation of Norway during the Second World War. I went home, and I read the entire book that night. The next day, I went back to see her. I told her about it, and she smiled, and she said, “Well, here’s another one.” And this went on for several months, and I read many books that Mrs. Whiting gave me. Then one day in the spring of that school year, she said to me, “I think you’re ready to pick your own books now.” So she had an amazing effect on me. She opened my eyes to a world of knowledge I didn’t really know existed before and created in me what was the first faint sense of self-worth.”

About the book

In this tale of the German occupation of Norway during World War II, Steinbeck explores the effects of invasion on both the conquered and the conquerors. A small town confronts evil imposed from the outside and betrayal from within.

“The people don’t like to be conquered, sir, and so they will not be. Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat. Herd men, followers of a leader, cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who win the battles and the free men who win wars.”