The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

Cover via Goodreads.

3.5/5 stars.

I feel like it’s cliche to say that The Winter of Our Discontent is well-written. If you’ve taken ninth grade high-school English, I’m confident you’ve encountered John Steinbeck at least once. There’s no doubt he’s a fantastic writer. Of Mice of Men or East of Eden, anyone?

However, The Winter of Our Discontent was not as fluid as Of Mice and Men nor did it possess the sheer strength in characterization or plot as East of Eden. It may be my underdeveloped adolescent mind at work here, but I found the book a bit banal.

It’s about a middle-aged grocery clerk living in New England during the 1960’s who struggles to appease his wife’s wish for higher social standing as well as his children’s constant desire for material goods. The plot itself did not present anything mind-blowing – the underlying theme of morality made me think though. In fact, the entire book seemed fixated on that one premise: Ethan Hawley’s deteriorating ethical standards and the result of his descent into dishonor.

Also, there are a lot of spectacular quotes in this book. For example:

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”

“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 is discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something -anything – before it is all gone.”

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5 Comments

Filed under 3.5 stars, Book Reviews, Books

5 responses to “The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

  1. Recently I read a short story by John Steinbeck, and the plot–like you said–“did not present anything mind-blowing.” Rather, I was baffled. I guess I expected a lot from the author–but the story was flat.

    Great review!

    • Thank you! It goes to show that just because a book is written by a renowned author does not mean one will automatically like it. I’m curious, which short story was it?

  2. I read “The Chrysanthemums.” However, if you read about symbolism first hand, it’ll be easy to get the moral of the story.

    • I did a science fair project on Chrysanthemums in the seventh grade. Anyway, I’ll try to check it out, as well as your other recommendation “Bitter Melon”. I feel like I’d probably connect more to “Bitter Melon” than the short story, but we’ll see.

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