The Moon is Down

by

John Steinbeck

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Colonel Lanser Character Analysis

The highest ranking military invader. Colonel Lanser fought in World War I, invading Belgium and France as a young man. Because of this, he has a pessimistic view of “what war really is in the long run,”—seeing it as nothing but “treachery and hatred” that leads only to “new weariness and new hatreds.” As a way of dealing with his own misgivings about war, he tells himself that he’s merely a soldier carrying out orders and that he shouldn’t question his duty. Still, his pessimism is apparent in his dealings with Mayor Orden, a man he treats with respect and civility, acting as if the invasion is only a “business procedure.” This naïve approach stems from his unwillingness to admit that this new war will be just as gruesome and futile as the previous, but also his knowledge that maintaining the appearance of order and polite decorum is critical to getting the upper hand in war. When Mayor Orden refuses to carry out Lanser’s orders, Lanser becomes increasingly exasperated, partly because Orden’s arguments about the nature of democracy seem to ring true to him given his past experiences. Nonetheless, he is bound by his military duty and his affiliation with a fascist regime, and therefore is forced to resort to violent and oppressive measures. Lanser is a deeply frightening character, not because he lacks a moral compass altogether, but because he seems to willfully and stoically deny what he knows to be right.

Colonel Lanser Quotes in The Moon is Down

The The Moon is Down quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Lanser or refer to Colonel Lanser. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Moon is Down published in 1995.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The Mayor looked steadily at her for a moment and his voice was sharp. “Madame, I think with your permission we will not have wine. The people are confused now. They have lived at peace so long that they do not quite believe in war. They will learn and then they will not be confused any more. They elected me not to be confused. Six town boys were murdered this morning. I think we will have no hunt breakfast. The people do not fight wars for sport.”

Related Characters: Mayor Orden (speaker), Colonel Lanser, Madame (Sarah) Orden
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

And Orden said, “Yes, that’s clear enough. But suppose the people do not want to work the mine?”
The colonel said, “I hope they will want to, because they must. We must have the coal.”
“But if they don’t?”
“They must. They are an orderly people. They don’t want trouble.” He waited for the Mayor’s reply and none came. “Is that not so, sir?”
Mayor Orden twisted his chain. “I don’t know, sir. They are orderly under their own government. I don’t know how they would be under yours. It is untouched ground, you see. We have built our government over four hundred years.”

Related Characters: Mayor Orden (speaker), Colonel Lanser (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Lanser had been in Belgium and France twenty years before and he tried not to think what he knew—that war is treachery and hatred, the muddling of incompetent generals, the torture and killing and sickness and tiredness, until at last it is over and nothing has changed except for new weariness and new hatreds. Lanser told himself he was a soldier, given orders to carry out. He was not expected to question or to think, but only to carry out orders; and he tried to put aside the sick memories of the other war and the certainty that this would be the same. This one will be different, he said to himself fifty times a day; this one will be very different.

Related Characters: Colonel Lanser
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

In marching, in mobs, in football games, and in war, outlines become vague; real things become unreal and a fog creeps over the mind. Tension and excitement, weariness, movement—all merge in one great gray dream, so that when it is over, it is hard to remember how it was when you killed men or ordered them to be killed. Then other people who were not there tell you what it was like and you say vaguely, “Yes, I guess that’s how it was.”

Related Characters: Colonel Lanser
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Then Corell said insinuatingly, “Are you afraid, Colonel? Should the commander of this occupation be afraid?”
Lanser sat down heavily and said, “Maybe that’s it.” And he said disgustedly, “I’m tired of people who have not been at war who know all about it.” He held his chin in his hand and said, “I remember a little old woman in Brussels—sweet face, white hair; she was only four feet eleven; delicate old hands. You could see the veins almost black against her skin. And her black shawl and her blue-white hair. She used to sing our national songs to us in a quivering, sweet voice. She always knew where to find a cigarette or a virgin.” He dropped his hand from his chin, and he caught himself as though he had been asleep. “We didn’t know her son had been executed,” he said. “When we finally shot her, she had killed twelve men with a long, black hatpin. I have it yet at home. It was an enamel button with a bird over it, red and blue.”
Corell said, “But you shot her?”
“Of course we shot her.”
“And the murders stopped?” asked Corell.
“No, the murders did not stop.”

Related Characters: Colonel Lanser (speaker), George Corell (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

At last Orden answered, “Why didn’t you shoot him then? That was the time to do it.”
Lanser shook his head. “If I agreed with you, it would make no difference. You know as well as I that punishment is largely for the purpose of deterring the potential criminal. Thus, since punishment is for others than the punished, it must be publicized. It must even be dramatized.” He thrust a finger in back of his belt and flipped his little dagger.

Related Characters: Mayor Orden (speaker), Colonel Lanser (speaker), Alexander Morden
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Lanser said, “No; it is true whether you believe it or not: personally, I have respect for you and your office, and”—he put his forehead in his hand for a moment—“you see, what I think, sir, I, a man of a certain age and certain memories, is of no importance. I might agree with you, but that would change nothing. The military, the political pattern I work in has certain tendencies and practices which are invariable.”
Orden said, “And these tendencies and practices have been proven wrong in every single case since the beginning of the world.”
Lanser laughed bitterly, “I, an individual man with certain memoires, might agree with you, might even add that one of the tendencies of the military mind and pattern is an inability to learn, an inability to see beyond the killing which is its job. But I am not a man subject to memories. The coal miner must be shot publicly, because the theory is that others will then restrain themselves from killing our men.”

Related Characters: Mayor Orden (speaker), Colonel Lanser (speaker), Alexander Morden
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“Good. Now I’ll tell you, and I hope you’ll understand it. You’re not a man any more. You are a soldier. Your comfort is of no importance and, Lieutenant, your life isn’t of much importance. If you live, you will have memories. That’s about all you will have. Meanwhile you must take orders and carry them out. Most of the orders will be unpleasant, but that’s not your business. I will not lie to you, Lieutenant. They should have trained you for this, and not for flower-strewn streets. They should have built your soul with truth, not led along with lies.”

Related Characters: Colonel Lanser (speaker), Lieutenant Prackle
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Orden fingered his gold medallion. He said quietly, “You see, sir, nothing can change it. You will be destroyed and driven out.” His voice was very soft. “The people don’t like to be conquered, sir, and so they will not be. Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat. Herd men, followers of a leader, cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who win battles and the free men who win wars. You will find that it is so, sir.”
[…] Madame broke in plaintively, “I wish you would tell me what all this nonsense is.”
“It is nonsense, dear.”
“But they can’t arrest the Mayor,” she explained to him.
Orden smiled at her. “No,” he said, “they can’t arrest the Mayor. The Mayor is an idea conceived by free men. It will escape arrest.”

Related Characters: Mayor Orden (speaker), Madame (Sarah) Orden (speaker), Colonel Lanser
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Moon is Down PDF

Colonel Lanser Character Timeline in The Moon is Down

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Lanser appears in The Moon is Down. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...warehouse and send word to Mayor Orden, the town’s top official, that their commander, Colonel Lanser, will be visiting the mayoral palace. (full context)
Order, Control, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...the mayor’s wife, Madame Orden, is currently trimming his ear hairs in preparation for Colonel Lanser’s visit. Winter stands up, and Joseph takes the opportunity to put his chair exactly where... (full context)
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Order, Control, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...Doctor Winter talks to Mayor Orden and Madame Orden about how to appropriately receive Colonel Lanser. Madame asks whether they should serve tea or wine, and Doctor Winter replies, “I don’t... (full context)
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When Colonel Lanser arrives, a helmeted man announces his presence and steps to the side, revealing the colonel... (full context)
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...That is an honorable thing.” Nevertheless, Orden is furious and refuses to speak with Colonel Lanser until Corell leaves. When Corell argues that he deserves to be present for this meeting,... (full context)
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Not long after Corell leaves, Mayor Orden and Colonel Lanser’s conversation is interrupted by the palace’s cook, Annie, who complains to the mayor and his... (full context)
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After Colonel Lanser explains to Orden that the rest of the country has also been invaded, the mayor... (full context)
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Continuing their discussion regarding whether or not the village will cooperate with the invaders, Colonel Lanser says that his government hopes to keep Orden as the town’s mayor. In fact, Lanser... (full context)
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Interrupting Colonel Lanser and Mayor Orden’s conversation, Joseph comes into the room and reports that Annie is growing... (full context)
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...and asks if he should arrest her, since she scalded several men and bit another. Lanser thinks for a moment before ordering the soldier to let Annie go and to tell... (full context)
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Before leaving the mayoral palace, Colonel Lanser asks Orden again whether or not he intends to cooperate with the invaders. Orden explains... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Colonel Lanser is the most experienced of all the soldiers, having been involved in World War I... (full context)
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...is for a model train set he has in his backyard at home. When Colonel Lanser arrives, he asks Captain Loft to go relieve Captain Bentick from his shift in the... (full context)
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Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
After Loft leaves, Lieutenant Prackle asks Lanser when he thinks they will win the war, admitting that he’s eager to go home,... (full context)
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Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
Mr. Corell pays the palace a visit to speak to Colonel Lanser, who introduces Corell to the other officers. Lanser tells Corell he did a good job... (full context)
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Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
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Lanser notices Corell has a bandage on his head and asks him if the villagers have... (full context)
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Corell becomes frustrated, saying he deserves a position of power. Lanser goes on, saying, “Mayor Orden is more than mayor. He is his people.” Seeing that... (full context)
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Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
At that moment, Captain Loft comes swiftly into the room and informs Colonel Lanser that Captain Bentick has been killed. Apparently, as Loft was relieving Bentick in the mines,... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Just as Molly departs, Colonel Lanser arrives. He asks to speak to the mayor privately, so Doctor Winter takes his leave.... (full context)
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Order, Control, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
...Morden to death, since this falls outside the purview of a mayor’s duty. He criticizes Lanser for his obsession with pretending like this is a simple matter of law-breaking, rather than... (full context)
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Lanser continues by emphasizing that he needs Orden’s help to control the situation. Finally, Orden says... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...that the prisoner stood. “It is not customary to falsify reports,” Loft says, but Colonel Lanser tells him to move on. When it finally comes time to sentence Alex, Lanser asks,... (full context)
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Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...his will for the invaders. He says he actually meant to hit Loft, but Colonel Lanser ignores this, saying it doesn’t matter who he hit; “Are you sorry you did it?”... (full context)
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
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...Lieutenant Prackle, who was standing in front of the window, grabs his shoulder, injured. Colonel Lanser jumps to his feet, shouting, “So, it starts!” He orders Captain Loft to go search... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...Will and Tom Anders. She gives Molly a piece of meat she stole from Colonel Lanser’s plate. She then tells Molly that the Anders boys are going to sail for England... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...soldiers collect several of these mysterious items and bring them to the palace, where Colonel Lanser, Captain Loft, and Major Hunter examine them. Hunter tells Lanser that the packages contain sticks... (full context)
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Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...it effectively, detailing the best ways to damage railroads, bridges, “transmission poles,” and even trucks. Lanser tells his men that the capital has ordered him to “stamp this out so ruthlessly”... (full context)
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While Lanser and Loft argue about what to do, Mr. Corell arrives. Before Loft leaves, Lanser relents... (full context)
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After Loft leaves, Lieutenant Prackle comes in hoping to speak to Lanser, who anticipates the young man’s complaints: “You didn’t think it would be this way, did... (full context)
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Upon dismissing Prackle, Colonel Lanser finally welcomes Mr. Corell into the drawing-room. Corell informs Lanser that he has written to... (full context)
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In response to Corell’s strong words, Lanser asks him what he is suggesting. “These suggestions, Colonel, are a little stronger than suggestions,”... (full context)
Chapter 8
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As Mayor Orden delivers Socrates’ monologue with Doctor Winter’s help, Colonel Lanser enters the room and listens attentively. When Orden and Winter argue whether or not a... (full context)
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Finally, Mayor Orden can remember no more of the monologue, and Lanser tells Prackle to have Captain Loft guard the men who were found with dynamite. He... (full context)
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Colonel Lanser asks what Mayor Orden thinks his people would do if he asked them not to... (full context)
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Orden speaks frankly with Lanser, telling him it’s obvious that although the invaders have the upper hand now, freemen are... (full context)