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The Winter of Our Discontent (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 26, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143039482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143039488
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. His complete works will be available in Penguin Modern Classics. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Steinbeck was one of the great American writers.
Patrick Shepherd
The book picks up greatly towards the end after you suffer from a bit too much meandering and overly eager exposition.
The book is also good with the character studies.
Patricia Davis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

293 of 306 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
After reading Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, and The Pearl in high school, I was not an admirer of Steinbeck, but when I picked up The Winter of Our Discontent as an adult, I was awed by the author I had once shunned. Steinbeck's keen sense of character and a mastery of the language carries this novel from first page to last. The story revolves around Ethan Hawley, a descendent of proud New England stock whose life seems betrayed by circumstances as he struggles to provide for his family. His wife Mary urges him to be more ambitious, and his restless teenage children exhibit signs of being morally corrupt. When Ethan decides that his ethics no longer matter in this demanding world, he enters his own compounding crisis.

In perfectly rendered language, Steinbeck explores the themes of two Americas - the old Puritanical and morally staid one, and the one where every man fights for himself. The corruption in New Baytown is rampant. Issues about privilege and entitlement, family values, skewed priorities, flagging morality, and work ethics simmer underneath. Steinbeck's depiction of Ethan and Mary's marriage is witty, biting, and affectionate, demonstrating both his humor and his talent for dissecting domestic issues as well as the grander, social ones.

A fine novel by a recently underappreciated author, The Winter of Our Discontent is worth every minute spent with it.
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107 of 110 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
To any of you who are considering reading this book, the following points may be helpful:
* Of all the Steinbeck novels I've read, I consider this one to be his wittiest, funniest and most intelligent. The dialogue is great and the main character (Ethan Allen Hawley) may be my favorite Steinbeck character of all-time.
* This book focuses on thought rather than plot. We are taken on detailed journeys through Ethan Hawley's mind (in fact, some of the chapters of this book are written in the first-person rather than the third-person, such that Hawley speaks to us directly). What we are shown are the motives and means through which a conscientious human being trades a life of good deeds for a life of deception and acquisitiveness, and the result is jarring.
* As indicated above, however, this book is NOT plot-driven. Therefore, some readers may not like it as much as, say, "The Grapes of Wrath" or "In Dubious Battle". Do yourselves a favor and read the first page or two of the book before buying it. If you are drawn into the dialogue on these pages, you'll probably love the book - it represents the general tone of the novel throughout, though toward the end the book gets much darker as Ethan's abandonment of his morals and the consequences thereof are driven home to the reader.
This truly great novel will stick with the reader long after the last page has been turned. Read it - I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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179 of 195 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
"The Winter of our Discontent" was published in 1961, just before Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in 1962. The story is set in the late 1950s in New Baytown, a small (fictitious) New York -New England town which, Steinbeck tells us, had flourished during the whaling days of the mid-19th century. The main protagonist of the book is Ethan Allen Hawley. Ethan ("eth" to his friends is descended from early pirates and whaling captains. His family had lost its capital through speculative business ventures during WW II and Ethan, with has backround and his Harvard education, is reduced to working as a clerk in a small grocery store he once owned. Marullo, an Italian immigrant, owns the store and calls Ethan "kid".
For a short novel, the book includes a wealth of characters, many of which I found well described. There is Ethan's wife Mary who is impatient with the family's impoverished lots and eager for Ethan's economic success as well as the couple's two children, Allen, who is writing an essay called "Why I Love America" and the sexually precocious daughter Ellen. We meet the town banker, Mr. Baker, a bank clerk and a friend of Ethan's, Margie Young-Hunt, twice married and the town seductress, and Danny Taylor, Ethan's childhood friend who has thrown away a career of promise and become a drunk.
The book describes the deteriorations of Ethan's life as he gradually loses his integrity and succumbs to temptations to lift his life, and the lives of his family members, from its materially humble state to a state consistent with Ethan's felt family heritage and education and with the desire of his family for material comfort. The story is sad and told in a style mixing irony and ambiguity that requires the reader to reflect and dig into what is happening.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd VINE VOICE on December 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a frightening book, with more real horror than ten of the standard fare. By detailing one man's sliding morals, it holds up a mirror to everyone, as we all have faced similar decisions between doing what is right and doing what is convenient. And facing ourselves can be truly horrifying -- especially when
the collective result of everyone's decisions is clearly evident in the ethical morass of today's world, from a President trying to re-formulate the English language to the Enron financial fiasco to wide-spread cheating on exams at our military academies.
For this novel Steinbeck decided to remove himself from his normal California setting in favor of the East Coast. By doing so he availed himself of a milieu where tradition and 'old money' set the standards for acceptance into 'society'. Ethan Hawley is a man whose family used to be part of that 'society', but due to bad financial decisions he now finds himself clerking for an immigrant who owns the grocery store he himself used to own. With a wife quietly but constantly chiding him about her desires for a better life, to be able to hold her head up in society, and two kids constantly clamoring for more things, Ethan finds himself at a crossroads between a rigid moral code instilled in him by his aunt and grandfather, and providing a better life for those he loves.
Told partially in first person in spare but very effective prose, the road that Ethan spirals down is brilliantly portrayed, from his 'sermons' to the groceries, to his internal 'conversations' with his grandfather, to the seemingly chance happenings and conversations in his little town that spawns an idea and method for robbing the local bank, to his 'dropping a dime' on his immigrant boss, to his betrayal of his alcoholic friend Danny.
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