What is the central theme of the The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck?  Which passage in the novel clearly reveals this theme?

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Resistance becomes the central theme of The Moon is Down.  Once the town is overrun with "hard people," it never capitulates. Events transpire afterwards, and each one is measured in the resistance with which the townspeople react to it. The reactions to Corell, to the execution of Morden, and how the fight seems to become a "a slow, silent, waiting revenge," are all examples of this resistance.  The theme of resistance is evident in how the townspeople do not care about the individual events that impact them. Their focus is on something larger, something more profound.  From the child who builds a snowman caricature of "the leader" to the emergence of the Mayor as a figure of sacrifice, the cause of freedom and resistance endures.  Dr. Winter articulates this when talking about the mindset of the townspeople:

A time- minded people… and the time is nearly up.  They think that just because they have only one leader and one head, we are all like that.  They know that ten heads lopped off will destroy them, but we are a free people, we have as many heads as we have people, and in a time of need leaders pop up among us like mushrooms.

The moon never seems to go down on this fight for sovereignty which defines the townspeople.  Resistance becomes an essential theme in the narrative.

I think that the Mayor's words probably best embody the theme of resistance.  From his initial appearance as one who wanted to impress the invaders and one who seemed uncertain of his purpose, the Mayor evolves into a magnanimous figure.  He is shown to be one who recognizes the larger struggle of resistance within his people.  This becomes evident at the end of the narrative:

I have no choice of living or dying, you see, sir, but - I do have a choice of how I do it.  If I tell them not to fight, they will be sorry, but they will fight.  If I tell them to fight, they will be glad, and I who am not a very brave man will have made them a little braver.

The Mayor's words reflect the theme of resistance. They show how the individual is compelled to recognize their own role in a fight for that which is honorable.  The Mayor's words reflect resistance in how they maintain the social good. The Mayor does not look for a way out of his own death. He does not seek to escape. Rather, the ending of the novella reflects how the Mayor understands his own purpose is meant for something larger.  The cause of resistance is how he defines himself.  He recognizes this as part of his being.  The resistance is evident in how he wishes to sacrifice his life for a larger cause of defeating the invaders.  In the Mayor's words, the "debt will be repaid" in the townspeople's embrace of the larger cause, one for which he himself makes the ultimate sacrifice.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,989 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question