The Moon is Down
While volunteering his writing services to various government agencies during World War II, Steinbeck wrote The Moon Is Down (1942), a fictional story meant to boost wartime morale. The short novel, however, survives not merely as a propaganda period piece. It is another testament to Steinbeck's celebration of the importance of the individual, an idea upon which democracy is founded.
Although the setting is never named in the story, it is widely believed that Steinbeck used Norway as his model, making the totalitarian invaders German Nazis. Indeed, Norwegians believed The Moon Is Down was set in their country. It was not until after the war that Steinbeck learned how important the story had been to underground resistance movements in Europe. The novel was secretly distributed in Norway, as well as in Denmark, Holland, Italy, and other countries during the war. In America, however, the book was reviewed with wildly mixed reactions. Many critics felt that Steinbeck's depiction of the Nazis was too soft, but Steinbeck's intention was not to demonize the Nazis and represent them as monsters. He sought instead to explore the psychological effects of occupation on both the people and their conquerors.