The village setting of The Winter of Our Discontent closely resembles Sag Harbor, the Long Island town where John Steinbeck liked to loaf and write, and the women in The Winter of Our Discontent reflect aspects of the women in Steinbeck’s personal life, the focus of the May 4-6 Steinbeck Festival in Salinas, the California town where the author of The Winter of Our Discontent grew up with a sister named Mary and a girl from church who went on to marry a man named Hawley. Susan Shillinglaw wrote the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of The Winter of Our Discontent and conceived of the celebratory idea for the festival, so there’s a pleasant symmetry to the May 18-20 celebration of Steinbeck’s last novel being planned in Sag Harbor, where Shillinglaw (in photo) will lead public discussion and the book will be read aloud, cover to cover, at Canio’s Cultural Café. Salinas and Sag Harbor were the bookends in John Steinbeck’s life. So were the Mary’s from Steinbeck’s family and the fictional family of his novel’s hero Ethan Hawley—Steinbeck’s beloved sister; Ethan’s steadfast spouse, and the enlightened daughter who prevents his discontent from becoming despair. The temptress in Ethan Hawley’s tale also has a correlative in Steinbeck’s personal history. To find out who she was, sign up for the May 4-6 celebration of The Women of Steinbeck’s World and note whose name is missing from the honor roll. If Long Island is more convenient, show up for the May 18 talk by Susan Shillinglaw, the link between Steinbeck’s Sag Harbor and Salinas, and ask.
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