Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The original Sopranos?

I recently finished The Winter of Our Discontent, one of John Steinbeck's last novels.

For all of its alleged (but unproven) literary faults, in terms of rambling soliloquies and other venial scribal sins [which actually put a timeliness and reality to the narrative, but I'm digressing again], the way morality is treated puts a striking parallel between this work and my favorite 21st century program, The Sopranos.

Of course, this is not to say that these are both gangster stories--instead, I am speaking on a deeper level of the moral themes--how morality is perceived and practiced, and how we as the observers are left scratching our heads as to whether we want to root for a given character, or whether we hope they get it.

Even superficially, there is the character of Alfio Marullo, whose Italian background leads people to question whether he is "connected". Even deeper, Marullo's integrity is ambiguous. Is he noble man, or is he not?

There is the East Coast town-nestled on the Atlantic Ocean, I am reminded of the Sopranos again, because the portrayal of the area used to seem so foreign to me as a Californian. Now in my Maryland-soaked life, the pages and screens are more alive than ever.

Then we have the actual protagonist, Ethan Hawley-in some senses he is a nobody, but in other senses he is American royalty. The friction between these two realities leads to a universally American portrayal of what it means to succeed in this country.

And as the Sopranos ends, so too does this novel.

But, since one of my few readers is a Steinbeck fan who has yet to read this, I will say no more.

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