Book Review: The Winter of Our Discontent

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The Winter of Our Discontent

John Steinbeck

 

What an amazing time in history in the United States to rediscover the classics.  Steinbeck’s “The Winter of Our Discontent” is just one such classic to rediscover during these dynamic global economic times.

 

Steinbeck’s main character, Ethan Allen Hawley, begins his first quarter century of life renowned for his simple, honest living.  After a series of events and in an effort to please his family with wealth above all other things, Ethan succumbs to many types of economic speculation.  While his reputation as an honest man remains in tact, his friends’ lives become “up for grabs” and his family begins to exhibit behaviors increasingly dishonest.

 

Steinbeck ends his novel with an ambiguous ending, with either resolution resulting in tragedy.  One thing is for certain, the extreme ending indicates Steinbeck’s predilection which demands a cataclysmic change in perspective in order to prevent more lives lost in New Baytown.

 

The novel eschews idleness, dishonesty, and speculation.  Steinbeck prevails in communicating that the American Dream is possible, and that most have already discovered it.  Steinbeck also admonishes his characters who believe that the American Dream demands idleness, dishonesty, or speculation.

 

The Winter of Our Discontent describes 1960s America as a country typified by all small towns coming down from industrial changes and growth, and ultimately leading up to the Presidential election which would lead the country further into a recession in 1961, the year Kennedy was elected and so ensued the Bay of Pigs.

 

Reading good literature such as Steinbeck’s works is a great way to use leisure time while under the grips of our current recession.  Not only is it a productive use of one’s time, but since good literature is fiction, it can give us insight into the hearts of those great minds who experienced tragedy before we will have.

 

In the current recession we are bombarded with news reports of dishonesty and speculation not limited to the Blagojavichs and Madoffs of this country.  But let’s all take some tutelage from Steinbeck and realize that now is NOT the time to continue to profit off of dishonesty and speculation, but to use our idle hours to create simple, honest lives which cherish family, friends, shelter, and occupation.

 

Let’s be grateful for that which was brought on through simple means and blessings that we already have rather than lament that which we lack.  Let’s celebrate what our honest, righteous living has provided us, and motivate ourselves to continue living as such in order to achieve more.

 

And if our dishonesty has provided us more means and blessings, let’s alter future tragic histories and make examples of ourselves by returning to a more honest existence.  In fact, let’s celebrate those who commit to honesty and commit to doing better.  Let’s use Ethan Hawley’s story as our example.  Ethan lived an honest life, and even though he continued to have his honest reputation, his dishonest actions created more loss than anything he might have gained through speculation.

 

Now, more than ever, is the time to be honest about our discontent.  Now is the time to lay an honest foundation under which we will create the long-lasting contributions we so desperately need to give to this world.  This book review and blog entry seems incredibly esoteric in that there are no actions steps on how to survive and thrive during our dynamic economic times typified by our current recession.  We must only challenge ourselves to do better; we must compete to be increasingly honest with one another.  Our thoughts must dictate our honest words and our honest words will dictate our honest actions.

 

Let’s celebrate character rather than celebrity.  Let’s celebrate what we have not lost through honest actions rather than lament what we might gain through dishonest action.  Let’s all use The Winter of Our Discontent as an inspiration to create the world we want our children to inherit.

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