The Winter of Our Discontent
The Winter of our Discontent weaves together some of the most important influences on Steinbeck: Malory's Arthur, The Bible, Shakespeare, history, mythology, and even the modern literature of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." It was the novel that once again positioned Steinbeck as a social critic. Like The Grapes of Wrath,Winter is another richly textured work set in the present day; in this case, 1960 America. The story follows Ethan Allen Hawley from Good Friday to Independence Day, as he negotiates the financial and ethical problems set before him. His transformation is told against a backdrop of Christian religious holidays, with Ethan's development following the death and resurrection of Christ. Hawley's name signifies the historical Ethan Allen, an American political hero of questionable integrity. Steinbeck calls all of American history into question when he links Ethan's ancestral roots to both Puritans and whaling tycoons. The novel's title is taken from the line in Shakespeare's Richard III, a play about another corrupt historical figure.