Overview

The final novel of one of America’s most beloved writers—a tale of degeneration, corruption, and spiritual crisis



In awarding John Steinbeck the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Nobel committee stated that with The Winter of Our ...
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The Winter of Our Discontent

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Overview

The final novel of one of America’s most beloved writers—a tale of degeneration, corruption, and spiritual crisis



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 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. This Penguin Classics edition features an introduction and notes by leading Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440638671
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/26/2008
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 49,657
  • File size: 344 KB

Meet the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).



After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.



Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.



The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.

Susan Shillinglaw is director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

Susan Shillinglaw is director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).



After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.



Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.



The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.

Susan Shillinglaw is director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

Susan Shillinglaw is director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).



After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.



Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.



The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.

Susan Shillinglaw is director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

Susan Shillinglaw is director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

Biography

John Ernst Steinbeck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Salinas, California February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, served as Monterey County Treasurer for many years. His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher who developed in him a love of literature. Young Steinbeck came to know the Salinas Valley well, working as a hired hand on nearby ranches in Monterey County. In 1919, he graduated from Salinas High School as president of his class and entered Stanford University majoring in English. Stanford did not claim his undivided attention. During this time he attended only sporadically while working at a variety jobs including on with the Big Sur highway project, and one at Spreckels Sugar Company near Salinas.

Steinbeck left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue a career in writing in New York City. He was unsuccessful and returned, disappointed, to California the following year. Though his first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, it attracted little literary attention. Two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown, met the same fate.

After moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1930, Steinbeck and his new wife, Carol Henning, made their home in Pacific Grove. Here, not far from famed Cannery Row, heart of the California sardine industry, Steinbeck found material he would later use for two more works, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

With Tortilla Flat (1935), Steinbeck's career took a decidedly positive turn, receiving the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal. He felt encouraged to continue writing, relying on extensive research and personal observation of the human drama for his stories. In 1937, Of Mice and Men was published. Two years later, the novel was produced on Broadway and made into a movie. In 1940, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Grapes of Wrath, bringing to public attention the plight of dispossessed farmers.

After Steinbeck and Henning divorced in 1942, he married Gwyndolyn Conger. The couple moved to New York City and had two sons, Thomas and two years later, John. During the war years, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches reappeared in Once There Was A War. In 1945, Steinbeck published Cannery Row and continued to write prolifically, producing plays, short stories and film scripts. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott and they remained together until his death.

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and keen social perception.." In his acceptance speech, Steinbeck summarized what he sought to achieve through his works:

"...Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species...Further more, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity of greatness of heart and spirit—gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature..."

Steinbeck remained a private person, shunning publicity and moving frequently in his search for privacy. He died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, where he and his family made a home. But his final resting place was the valley he had written about with such passion. At his request, his ashes were interred in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas. He is survived by his son, Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Amnesia Glasscock
      John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (full name); Amnesia Glasscock
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 27, 1902
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salinas, California
    1. Date of Death:
      December 20, 1968
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2006

    A Soul Searching Story!

    Ethan Allen Hawley... Sometimes a character comes along that rings out in your head. He's so identifiable that you almost assume the character was modelled after your own soul. Never mind the fact that the character was created 10 years before you were born, he's you... or maybe you're him. These characters are so real that you forget that the author is the one narrating the story. The author is transparent. The narrator is your own heart, a characterization of yourself. His narration is raw and truthful. The prose may be nearly 50 years old, but it paints a portrait of American life that transcends all the days from this to that. That's Steinbeck's prose. Steinbeck's prose, but Ethan Hawley's words. Ethan is the lead character in Steinbeck's, 'The Winter of Our Discontent.' Ethan is Steinbeck's creation, Ethan is my character. I listen to his thoughts, to the ideas in his head and I recognize them as the thoughts I so often find myself working through. His struggles, his emotions and, indeed, his proposed solutions are a facsimile of the very ones I carry with me. Every man must consider his fate. In your heart, you find your answers, however right or wrong. Ethan found my answers... not that I'm gonna start robbing banks or anything. But, sitting in the Place, out of the wind, seeing under the guardian lights, I find the answers that Ethan found so long before I knew I was looking. 'No nonsense of Madison Avenue then or trimming too many leaves from cauliflowers.' Here, a man can breathe.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    Beware of Sample. Only the introduction

    The sample is all the publizhing info, dedication, etc. It never even gets to first page of the novel itself.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    I had to read this book for school. If you do to, im sorry. This

    I had to read this book for school. If you do to, im sorry. This book is very detailed but the characters are uninteresting and this book is just plain boring. It only got one star because it wouldnt let me choose none.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2006

    Winter of Our Discontent

    A friend recommended this book, said it was one of his favorites, and I can see why. The questions this book raises, about what we will or will not do to better ourselves, and at what cost to others will long be remembered. The ending was not at all what I expected that it would be, and it's moral implications are relevent still today.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2006

    Winter of Our Discontent

    This book is on my list of all time favorites. It moved a long, was very descriptive, and is a book that can be re-read to pick up some of the more subtle things that were missed. It was a deeply moving book, and makes us reflect upon our own lives, and what we will do for love, money and for those who share in our lives. A true classic!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Did not like the characters!

    Steinbeck's writing style is the only redeeming quality of this book. There is not one character to like. The book is a description of moral slide. With so many books why put yourself through this?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2005

    My thoughts

    I loved the book. It was alittle too detailed to me. It picked up though. The ending really got me thinking, I love the ending. Steinbeck makes you think about life and how you live it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2004

    Discontent? Read this book.

    A powerful novel, with a plot that most can relate to. Ethan Hawley, the main character struggles to provide for his family. Comes from a family of successful business men, until The Great Depression hits his family hard and he must start from the bottom, working as a produce market clerk. He feels that he must own up to his name that has been made by his predecessors. He is confronted by opportunities that question his integrity and common sense. What I like about this novel is that present day situations arise which grabs my attention and makes me think. Ethan, married with two children, thinks of his family first, because all he wants is to give them what he feels they deserve. He would sacrifice his own happiness to make his family happy. I also can relate to how he sometimes feels disappointed by how his life is panning out, but doesn¿t forget all the things he should be grateful for. I strongly recommend this novel to all who love to read. Whether you can relate to it or not, it will make you think, and help you appreciate some things that are taken for granted.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    A marvel!

    John Steinbeck's novel is truly a great contribtution to American Literature. A must read! The themes and discussions of the novel are remarkable, offering truth and an accuarate depiction of life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2001

    A must read!

    This late novel by Steinbeck returns to the form of social literature. A novel built around American themes, set in 1960. It exposes social themes that are ever present today and seemingly for years to come. It is both cleverly ironic and philosophical. While focusing on coventional problems and thoughts of everyday life, it also spendidly takes a trip into the supernatural. It's pace begins slow as the characters are diplayed and then engulfs you the latter half, making it difficult to put down. At times the book grabs you so hard it puts knots in your stomach of what is to come. It is more then just a fictional novel it is a book that demands you to search your own world for truths that Steinbeck exposes.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Ugh. Does anyone else out there think this book might have been

    Ugh. Does anyone else out there think this book might have been Steinbeck at his all time low? It is a book for the sake of writing a book. The struggles are not grounded in any movement particularly, and it is basically all about one family. Other characters become connected through the main character’s humble job, but this book is nothing to write home about.

    A product I would recommend is Sirens of Morning Light by Benjamin Anderson, a quest for a man in Iowa to regain his identity, which becomes entangled with people who claim to have known him when he discovers he is a scientific experiment. It does not disappoint with a plot that goes nowhere. Much occurs by the end of the story.

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  • Posted August 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended - you must check it out!!

    Brilliant classic - captures a snapshot of life in the beginning of second half of the twentieth century.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2013

    Pretty Good, But At Times I Felt Lost

    The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck was the story of Ethan Hawley, and his life in New Baytown as a grocery store clerk. He feels as though he does not live up to the high standard of the name, "Hawley." There is a young temptress, Margie, who tries to steal Ethan away from his gentle wife, Mary. His children, Allen and Ellen, both enter a contest to try and win a trip to Washington D.C. Through a matter of different events, over the span of about three or four months, Allen ends up getting an honorable mention in the essay. After reading part of his essay, Ethan sees that none of the words are of his son's own creation. Allen tells his father that it is because all men cheat and lie,why would this matter? After the guilt that Ethan feels over the span of the novel, he is ready to end it all, but can his daughter change his mind? This novel conveys the same common theme as in any Steinbeck novel, which is the hopelessness of a man's dreams. Overall, this book was well-written and very interesting, but just a little bit confusing from time to time. If a person were to read a Steinbeck book, I would definitely recommend this, or Of Mice and Men, both are very excellent novels,with very similar themes.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2012

    A great re-read

    I had read this book in high school, but didn't really get into Steinbeck until a few years later. Going back and rereading this was enlightening. although the book takes place 50 years ago, many of the moral struggles and themes are just as present, if not more so, in our society today. I love Steinbeck's writing generally, casual in tone but still very rich.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2011

    The Winter of Our Disconent

    The Winter of Our Discontent is one of my favorites from Steinbeck. Like all of his many other novels, it displays a great message, and describes the time period and emotion/feelings shared during the era. The book takes place in New Baytown (fictitous name) New York, during the 1950's, a time period of well, discontent. During a lessening of values and standards. He paints a bleek portrait of the world and how the main character Ethan, and many others are in a constant stuggle of the corruption of New Baytown. Ethan struggles to provide for his family, and his wife whom is tired of their social standing, a son Allen and a daughter Ellen, both of whom are displayed as lacking morals throughout the book.
    The title of this novel displays the book very accuratly and blantly. The Winter of Our Discontent, a time of sadness and unhappiness with life and in Ethans case, striving to better himself and help his family.
    At one point in the book, Ethan is presented with an opportunity, that has practacly landed in his lap, when his old friend Danny Taylor (the town drunk) dies and leaves Ethan everything he had, including his home, which is sitting on land in which a buisness man intends to build an airport. This gives Ethan the opportunity to bargain and he become a major figure in the towns eyes. On the other hand Ethan does not want to lose himself in the corruption of New Baytown and the other buisness men in it. Throughout the novel Ethan wanders the steets of New Baytown at night contemplating his life, and the opportunities or lack there of that are presented to him.
    Like many of Steinbecks other books, we are left with no clear ending really. We are left with Ethans future in doubt. Steinbecks way of writing once again appears clear in this novel, with impeccable description, the literally ties you in with the novel and make you understand and FEEL the characters emotions and just the plain feeling of the era and entire book. Steinbeck has once again produced an excellent novel that reflexes and questions entitlement, values/morals, and above all how far one man is willing to go.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Still incredibly relevant and thought-provoking

    For a book written in 1961 there is something very current about the sentiment and human/social observations in this work.
    Wikipedia will tell you it's been criticized for not being Steinbeck at his best, and I understand the criticism of the story being too predictable and Steinbeck "telegraphing" too much of his story.
    However, my assessment is that this approach was necessary because of the thoughtful character study Steinbeck was pursuing in this, his final published story.
    We very quickly understand that the central character is moralistic and excessively cheerful on the outside, yet much darker, tortured and calculating on the inside. This duality in man is central to Steinbeck's message in this particular piece.
    The author's command of language, prose, description more than compensate for any structural or pacing flaws inherent in the mechanics of the storytelling. This book gave me timeless characters I could identify with, motivations I understood intimately and really prompted me to reflect on modern life.
    I would sum it up as beautifully written, thought-provoking escapism.
    And that more than fulfills my expectations from a book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2008

    There are better Steinbeck books

    This is not Steinbeck at his best. At times, he struggles in and out of blatant ¿telling,¿ giving us exactly what we need to know in expositional dialogue between characters. These unrealistic exchanges share information that all of the characters already know, so of course these parts drag. Set in New England at New Baytown a village 'which is on the cusp of expanding', the kooky narrator lives in his own inner world, where Steinbeck unfolds a social criticism against expansion at the cost of morals, greed, and the story of fallen American families. The ending, though economic and beautifully written, comes from left field, and is undeveloped in terms of a connection with the rest of the story. This is same old, same old Steinbeck in theme, but his other books do it better. Read the other Steinbeck works, I¿d put this at the bottom of the Steinbeck list.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2007

    A reviewer

    Although its title can be a deceptive, groan-jerking warning to Shakespearian-ill readers in search modern and innovative readings, The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck is a holy well for troublesome, angst- ridden individuals and families alike. Set in the early 1960¿s, the real-time issues that the Hawley family encounters reflects the similar social disadvantages that various individuals from broken households strive to survive today. Teaching the importance of morals and how they shine profuse rays of light upon paths to success, Steinbeck inspires the importance of faith and how spine-chilling calamity can convert itself into simplistic and favorable outcome. Fathers can relate to Ethan Hawley¿s struggle for the patriarchal role that he is inclined to model, while Mothers can relate to the innocence of moral and love that Mary Hawley has for her children. Death is also a symbol in this story of guidance to strength. While Ethan feeds the diminishing light of his best friend Danny with alcohol, he learns that addiction has no place for pity, but rather the acknowledgement of its pith¿addiction affects the surrounding minds and hearts of a pitiful epicenter. This unfortunate circumstance broadens and expands an umbrella for Steinbeck to prove that love is a goal that must be set and worked towards in order to wholly prove its affection and care for another person. This warm and hopeful attitude that Steinbeck poses also influences warmth to his audience, enriching the care for social development that is so often misplaced by popular conformity and personal interest.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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