The fact that it is still winter leaves me feeling a bit discontented. The fact that Finish #6, The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck, had really nothing to do with winter left me perplexed. But then I thought a little deeper (something I’ve tried not to do since AP English in high school left me with a great distaste for analyzing literature) and surmised that “winter” might just be symbolic of something…perhaps the state of one’s life or one’s soul, and so the title began to make sense. There were a number of wintery, discontented souls in this book, which, coupled with the gloomy, rainy, snowy, sunless winter season up here, left me feeling a bit more morose than usual for this time of year!
Grapes of Wrath was one of the few classics that I enjoyed in high school. I have also read Of Mice and Men and The Moon is Down. I enjoyed those three by Steinbeck more than The Winter of Our Discontent. I think my issue with this book was that I didn’t care for the characters. Mary Hawley, the wife of the main character, was embarrassed by her husband’s status in the community as simply a shop employee. Ethan Hawley, the main character, ponders and plans a bank robbery and a suicide, both of which do not occur. Allen Hawley, the son, plagiarizes historical writings and wins a contest. His “win” is later revoked when the plagiarizing becomes known. Ellen Hawley, the daughter, just seems strange. Margie Young-Hunt comes across as the town tramp. The banker, Mr. Baker, acts as if the Hawley money belongs to him personally. And there’s not much good that can be said of any of the minor characters either. However, despite my dislike of the characters, they were memorable.
I’ve got to admit, I feel slightly more intelligent whenever I read a classic. Whether I am actually more intelligent…who knows. I do know one thing. It is nice to read a book that doesn’t follow a formula. Sure, it’s nice to know when reading a romantic novel that the formula will be the following: Guy and girl meet. They fall in love. They have some sort of conflict where they appear to fall out of love but are still pining away for each other. They get back together. Happily Ever After…
Of course there’s another romantic novel formula: Guy and girl meet. They fall in love. One of them dies. (Jane Green, Nicolas Sparks…thanks so much for shaking things up, I say with great sarcasm.)
With a classic, you just never know where it’s going to go and where the characters are going to end up.