This is John Steinbeck’s propaganda novel, in support of people living under Nazi occupation during World War II.
It tells the story of a small, anonymous town overrun by an invading army. The town’s iron ore mines are the object of desire to the invaders, led by a wary veteran of many wars. After the initial shock of invasion wears off, the townspeople resist the occupation. The resistance is clandestinely led by Mayor Orden, Doctor Winter, and Molly Morden, whose husband was executed by the invaders. The constant resistance by the townspeople wears on the invaders and Steinbeck explores the psychological consequences of maintaining an occupation. Throughout the novel, Steinbeck shows that free people cannot remain conquered.
The novel’s role in bolstering Norwegian morale won Steinbeck a commendation, the King Haakon IIV Freedom Cross. It was awarded for outstanding contributions to the Norwegian cause during World War II. This medal remained one of Steinbeck’s most treasured possessions for the rest of his life.
“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 battles and the free men who win wars.” – John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down
“I am a little man and this is a little town, but there must be a spark in little men that can burst into flame.” – John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down