The Winter of Our Discontent


“The Winter of Our Discontent” by John Steinbeck
(First publication: 1961 / This edition: Penguin Classics 2008)
Taken during a coffee break at Rocket x Siwilai. First time having a salted caramel affogato. Love.

When a condition or a problem becomes too great, humans have the protection of not thinking about it. But it goes inward and minces up with a lot of other things already there and what comes out it discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something—anything—before it is all gone. (pg.154)

Another year, another Steinbeck. My first book of 2016.

No surprise there, since I’ve been on a Steinbeck roll lately. Just can’t get enough.

Now… I found this story quite different from all the Steinbecks I’ve read before. It still has the usual Steinbeck elements you can expect—exploration of humanity, morality, society, familial issues, economy, “The Great Country of America”… and it is more gray than colorful—typical Steinbeck. The story focuses on Ethan Hawley, a man from a good family who’s going through economical and societal problems—and he will do anything to save his family. He has to deal with problems of social statuses, pride, bribery, betrayal, politics… just kind of the whole heavy package in a short period of time.

But… I just found this one hard to get through. I got through it, but I found myself pausing often throughout the book, wondering how much longer I have left to go on. It often felt “draggy” and I just wanted it to “hurry and wrap up”. There is a plot, but everything just seems to go so slow that I often lost track of what was happening.

I don’t know. This is just different from all the other experiences I’ve had with Steinbeck. With “East of Eden” and “The Grapes of Wrath”, for example, I didn’t want the books to end at all—even though they’re like twice the length of “The Winter of Our Discontent”. And “Travels with Charley” and “Of Mice and Men”, I was cherishing every single word. I found myself skimming some parts of “The Winter of Our Discontent” because… like I said, it often felt draggy.

Still a huge fan of Steinbeck though, and he’s still my #1 literary man. I’m glad I read this book, despite my little disappointment with it.



Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:

A grand gentlemen without money is a bum. (pg.34)

A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home with it. (pg.70)

A day, a livelong day, is not one thing but many. It changes not only in growing light toward zenith and decline again, but in texture and mood, in tone and meaning, warped by a thousand factors of season, of heat or cold, of still or multi winds, torqued by odors, tastes, and the fabrics of ice or grass, of bud or leaf or black-drawn naked limbs. And as a day changes so do its subjects, bugs and birds, cats, dogs, butterflies and people. (pg.12)




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