“Silence of the Sea” and “The Moon is Down”: Book Summary

Summary of the Two Books

The Silence of the Sea by Vercors is set within the context of the occupation of France in 1941 but was published later in early 1942. The book tells the tale of an old man and his niece in their home following the occupation by the Germans. The two characters show resistance against the occupation by refusing to speak to the officer occupying their house (Brown & Stokes, 1991). The book becomes a symbol of mental resistance against occupiers. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck was published in 1942 and narrates a similar story of military occupation. The book is set in a small town in Northern Europe when an army of an anonymous country fighting against England and Russia conducts an invasion with minimal resistance (Steinbeck, 1942). However, the people of the once-peaceful town became angry and confused over the unexpected intrusion.

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The Application of the Books to the Modern Political Context

The stories narrate the actions of the military occupiers against people previously enjoying a peaceful existence prior to the political unrest. The topic also reveals the tendency of the people to rebel against political oppression, which is an important theme in the two novels. For example, the elderly Frenchman and his niece resisted the invasion of the privacy of their home and used the only available tool of resistance, silence (Brown & Stokes, 1991). In a friendly setting, the elderly man and his niece would be expected to respond to the endless talks by the officer, who is a composer but portray anger about the invasion using mental resistance. Their approach prompts the officer to question his loyalty to the cruel Nazi regime. From the perspective of modern politics, people become angry whenever they experience political oppression, and as a result, they use various forms of resistance, including protests and demonstrations.

Antagonism is one of the commonly used tools of resistance during political oppression. In The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck, the people of the small coastal town react with anger and confusion when reality dawns that their peace is threatened by the military occupiers (Steinbeck, 1942). In the context of modern politics, it is normal for people to feel confused and helpless when facing political challenges and conflicts from an oppressive government. As a result, citizens can react unexpectedly when their peace is threatened. The novel reveals the tendency of people to neglect peace initiatives whenever their freedom is under attack (Prilleltensky, 2003). For instance, citizens can commit violence against the government or other institutions whenever their rights are violated. Hence, antagonism is portrayed as a resistance behavior and protection of own rights and principles.

The contemporary political climate is characterized by significant political conflicts affecting the ability of people to act with civility. Even when individuals behave calmly in the face of oppression, they express slow and silent anger, waiting for revenge at the opportune time (Steinbeck, 1942). For example, people might face rights violations from a dictatorial government and later react with violent protests such as occupying streets and engaging in vandalism (Prilleltensky, 2003). The political events also reveal the tendency to hold coordinated actions supported by political leaders such as Mayor Orden, who organized a rebellion when occupiers attack his people (Steinbeck, 1942). He explains to the occupation leaders that it is impossible “to break a man’s spirit permanently”, and when such situations arise, people are more likely to react unexpectedly, including violent resistance. Such opposition movements are common in different parts of the world, resisting various forms of oppression.

Alternative Narratives

Nowadays, people do not remain silent in stressful situations such as occupying the elderly man’s house and the coastal town. Silence is no longer the most common tool against such incidents, as individuals tend to become violent as soon as their rights are violated. For instance, during a political crisis, police might shoot and kill a protestor who is breaking the law (Prilleltensky, 2003). Immediately after the incident, people may gather on the streets, demonstrating violently against the killing. It is worth noting that the modern political environment is characterized by violent protests when people perceive the specific event as an invasion of their freedom. Recent instances, including Arab uprisings, reveal considerable use of violence by people to protect their rights and freedom from oppressive governance.

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In addition, Silence of the Sea, The Moon is Down, and alternative narratives reveal the tendency of people to change once they are confronted with a challenging situation that affects their lives. Civility is not possible in such cases where individuals feel oppressed by the political class (Prilleltensky, 2003). People are unafraid of using force and violence to achieve freedom and democracy in modern political settings. Therefore, while the oppression today differs from the occupation portrayed in the two books, they reveal the tendency to protect the human spirit from being broken by oppressors. The mode of oppression might differ from occupation time and today, but both instances reveal efforts to free humanity from tyranny using ethical and unethical means, including violence.



Brown, J. W., & Stokes, L. D. (1991). The silence of the sea/le silence De LA Mer: A novel of French resistance during World War II by “Vercors.” Oxford: Berg Publishers.

Prilleltensky, I. (2003). Understanding, resisting, and overcoming oppression: Toward psychopolitical validity. American Journal of Community Psychology31(1-2), 195-201.

Steinbeck, J. (1942). The moon is down. New York, NY: Penguin.



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