The Winter of Our Discontent

The Winter of Our Discontent

Book - 2008
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The final novel of one of America's most beloved writers--a tale of degeneration, corruption, and spiritual crisis

A Penguin Classic

In awarding John Steinbeck the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Nobel committee stated that with The Winter of Our Discontent , he had "resumed his position as an independent expounder of the truth, with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American." Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of Steinbeck's last novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With Ethan no longer a member of Long Island's aristocratic class, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards. Set in Steinbeck's contemporary 1960 America, the novel explores the tenuous line between private and public honesty, and today ranks alongside his most acclaimed works of penetrating insight into the American condition. This Penguin Classics edition features an introduction and notes by leading Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
ISBN: 9780143039488
Characteristics: xxxiii, 291 pages ;,20 cm.
Additional Contributors: Shillinglaw, Susan - Contributor


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Yemina12220 Dec 16, 2019

Wonderful book. Easy reading. Not heavy like Steinbeck typically is - IMO. Living with honor, doing all that society expects and waking one day to see the world differently. The question is, if you can get away with it - can you live with it? Main character is clever, dispassionate, calculating, focused.....just love love love this book.

Sep 02, 2017

I became a Steinbeck fan when I was in high school (1994-1998) and re-read his novels every few years. The Winter of Our Discontent was probably my favorite novel of his. For some reason I was drawn to the main character's downward spiral. Maybe I saw it as a warning. As a child of the 80's, having watched so many public service announcements, I understood the pressures of always being good and how easy it is for someone to want to give up.

If I remember correctly critics at the time didn't like it because it felt heavy handed, story implausible, characters written just to illustrate Steinbeck's opinion of moral decay in America. Was he wrong? I don't think so. I still consider him to be one of the best when writing about the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. We've seen so many corrupt and evil things done just for money. The story and change in Ethan is definitely over the top but it's nothing we haven't seen in other works. Doesn't a chemistry teacher become a drug dealer in Breaking Bad? The Winter of Discontent isn't as epic as Grapes of Wrath but still a great read.

Mar 30, 2017

It’s been some time since I’ve read a straightforward story of this depth without the modern trappings of shifting time and place, slipstream fantasies, or magic realism. Steinbeck fully develops the main characters, particularly the protagonist by contrasting his playful and honest external qualities with his despondent internal thoughts. It goes without saying that his language, his use of imagery, is exquisite. Despite having been written during and about the 1960s, the theme of integrity vs the American Dream of wealth (and the smeared line between the two) is well worth revisiting. Repeatedly.

Apr 27, 2016

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very different from his previous works. It seems to not be on the popular novel list but not certain why. It is very good and quite thought provoking. I love Steinbeck's mind.

Oct 30, 2011

This novel touches on the moral struggle of Ethan Hawley, a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned but lost through bad investments on his father’s part. Though his life is not uncomfortable it lacks the desirable things his family seems to crave. Pressured by his wife and children’s want of a better lifestyle, Ethan believes the only way he can achieve a better social standing will require him to compromise himself morally. As he spends his days silently planning his dishonest “get quick rich” schemes, he does not realize the ultimate cost he will need to pay.

Great story telling as is standard with all Steinbeck tales, however, this story just couldn’t keep my interest like the others. Some of the dialogue between Ethan and his wife Mary, was at some points, tedious. Still worth a read but definitely not one of his best.


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Jun 22, 2017

Possible quote incorrect; paraphrasing:
when my childhood dreams began reality and i learned to fly..

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.

Laura_X Apr 04, 2016

I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen.

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