The Moon is Down - Plot Synopsis

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When the novel opens, the town has just been conquered by invaders from another country. It is 10:45 in the morning, and the invasion is going exactly as planned. George Corell, the popular shopkeeper, made sure the town’s few soldiers, along with the policeman and postman, were out of town when the attack occurred, making the already peaceful town easy to conquer. Many years have passed since the town has fought a war, and no one seems to know how to act, including the invaders. Their leader Colonel Lanser stresses to Mayor Orden that the occupation is chiefly an engineering job and that he is more an engineer than a soldier. The invaders need the town’s coal resources; however, the cruelty behind the totalitarian ideology of the invaders soon becomes apparent. After the miner Alexander Morden kills one of the invaders, they stage a trial and sentence Morden to death by firing squad. Almost immediately after the execution, someone retaliates against the invaders, injuring Lieutenant Prackle. The invaders, from here on out, fulfill their role as conquerors when they confiscate all firearms from the townspeople, and threaten them with violence should further acts of retaliation occur.

A cold winter descends on the town, and as the months drag by an underground resistance forms. Some townspeople secretly escape, while accidents in the mine frequently shut down operations. Despite the use of brute force and starvation, the invaders’ efforts have little effect on the icy obedience of the townspeople. But not only the townspeople suffer. The soldiers, too, are on edge, constantly nervous and suspicious. They are lonely and miss their homes. One night, Molly Morden is visited by Annie, who informs Molly that her house will be used as a secret meeting place shortly thereafter, for the Anders boys are planning to escape and want to take Corell with them. In the meantime, Lieutenant Tonder stops by and confesses his loneliness to her. After the secret meeting, when Tonder returns, hoping to make love to Molly, she grabs a pair of scissors to kill him. Sometime later, when the winter snow is still heavy about the town, planes drop small dynamite kits during the night, with instructions for how to use the explosives against the invaders. As the invaders feel they are losing control over the town, Colonel Lanser knows that extreme measures must be taken. Sneaky Corell, it turns out, has been communicating with headquarters and keeping close watch on the townspeople. He has papers from headquarters that give him authority over Colonel Lanser. Ultimately, Lanser must comply with orders that Mayor Orden and Doctor Winter should be held hostage and executed if the townspeople use the dynamite. In the final scene, Mayor Orden, Doctor Winter, and Colonel Lanser recite the last words of Socrates before his own execution. A far off explosion is heard in the hills near the coal mine, followed by an explosion near the palace. Clearly, the two townsmen will be put to death.


Setting | Character Summaries| Plot Synopsis | Critical Reception
Cultural References | Key Terms and Concepts