Steinbeck was a great believer in free people. Moon is Down is a story of an occupied town and those that are occupying it. Though the conqueror comes in, Steinbeck makes the argument that a free people can’t be conquered.
It’s a story of ideology. The individuals on each side know how their story is going to play out from the beginning, because people who have known freedom will always want it. The fascist commander knows that killing the townspeople wont accomplish any order, but he follows his orders.
From a cynical standpoint, I want to think that people were just better in Steinbeck’s day, but when I read older fiction or biographies and see how people acted, I start to think that everyone would be screwed up if they had a twitter account or Instant Text Messaging. We talk about the divisiveness that is prevalent in the modern political system, but if Charles Sumner could go on Fox news to rail against the South we would see people react the same way as when someone gets onto an anti-gun soap box.
I think we are all morally disheartened by our fellow man because we have to put up with him so much. After all, “Hell is other people.” We have a higher population, we have far more contact with people we disagree with. It’s much easier to say “I disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” when you don’t have to hear it a dozen times a day. I don’t think people have really changed; I think we just react to the modern world in the only way we can.
Back to the book. It was interesting to follow The Secret Annex with a book like this. A fictional account of resistance in an occupied country and a biography of life in an occupied country. In spite of myself, I began wondering why Otto Frank and Peter weren’t out blowing up Nazi rail cars, but that’s a Romanticism and a trap of reading too much. We start to want everyone to be a hero, and it’s easier to make heroes when the enemy is a work of fiction.