32 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

The Moon Is Down

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1942

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Symbols & Motifs


As a motif consistent throughout the novel, snow or snowfall explain the town’s approach to revolution and reclaiming their freedom. Starting on the day of Alex Morden’s trial, snow begins to fall on the town: “And over the town there hung a blackness that was deeper than the cloud, and over the town there hung a sullenness and a dry, growing hatred” (51). The snow embodies the townspeople’s growing secretive nature as well as their methods of revolt, which rely on obfuscation and acting coldly towards Lanser’s soldiers. Like the snow, the townspeople are seen as innocent and unthreatening by Lanser’s soldiers and Mr. Corell. However, as the snow continues through the winter, the slow but persistent coldness takes its toll on Lanser’s soldiers. Especially for Lieutenant Tonder, the coldness of the townspeople threatens to drive him insensate. He exclaims “These cold people!” (63) when arguing with Lieutenant Prackle about the moral implications of their occupation and the deconstruction of their previous idealism.

Tonder’s Poem

In an attempt to impress Molly Morden and fulfill his need for attention, affection, and acknowledgment, Lieutenant Tonder recites a poem by Heinrich Heine as if it were his own (76). The language of the poem symbolizes Tonder’s deep need for affection and confirmation that he is performing his duties as a soldier respectfully.