The Moon is Down


John Steinbeck

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Lieutenant Tonder Character Analysis

A lieutenant in the military regiment that invades the town. Tonder first arrives with the starry-eyed naïveté of a young man unprepared for the harsh realities of war, even fantasizing at one point about dying a brave death while triumphant classical music swells over a battlefield. At the same time, he is a sensitive poet who dreams of the “perfect, ideal love of elevated young men for poor girls.” This desire to fall in love with a disempowered woman comes to fruition when, after having become psychologically unhinged due to a lack of human connection, he sneaks into Molly Morden’s house at night and pleads with her to spend time talking with him. Unbeknownst to him, Molly is the widow of Alexander Morden, a man executed by a group of soldiers commanded by Tonder. Since this event, Tonder has seen that—despite his earlier assumption that the villagers would revere the soldiers and welcome them—the war effort is useless and bleak, a sentiment he expresses at one point by noting that conquest is like flies conquering a strip of flypaper. When he speaks these ideas aloud, Lieutenant Prackle pleads with him to stop and Captain Loft slaps him in the face. This is not the only repercussion he experiences for speaking openly about his misgivings—in fact, Molly Morden stabs him to death with a pair of scissors after he tells her he wants to spend time with her and forget about the war for a little while.

Lieutenant Tonder Quotes in The Moon is Down

The The Moon is Down quotes below are all either spoken by Lieutenant Tonder or refer to Lieutenant Tonder. 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 2 Quotes

Lieutenants Prackle and Tonder were snot-noses, undergraduates, lieutenants, trained in the politics of the day, believing the great new system invented by a genius so great that they never bothered to verify its results. They were sentimental young men, given to tears and furies.

Related Characters: Lieutenant Tonder, Lieutenant Prackle
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Tonder got out his handkerchief and blew his nose, and he spoke a little like a man out of his head. He laughed embarrassedly. He said, “I had a funny dream. I guess it was a dream. Maybe it was a thought. Maybe a thought or a dream.”
Prackle said, “Make him stop, Captain!”
Tonder said, “Captain, is this place conquered?”
“Of course,” said Loft.
A little note of hysteria crept into Tonder’s laughter. He said, “Conquered and we’re afraid; conquered and we’re surrounded.” His laughter grew shrill. “I had a dream—or a thought—out in the snow with the black shadows and the faces in the doorways, the cold faces behind curtains. I had a thought or a dream.”
Prackle said, “Make him stop!”
Tonder said, “I dreamed the Leader was crazy.” […]
And Tonder went on laughing. “Conquest after conquest, deeper and deeper into molasses.” His laughter choked him and he coughed into his handkerchief. “Maybe the Leader is crazy. Flies conquer the flypaper. Flies capture two hundred miles of new flypaper!” His laughter was growing more hysterical now.

Related Characters: Captain Loft (speaker), Lieutenant Tonder (speaker), Lieutenant Prackle (speaker)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

He sat down. “I’m sorry.” After a moment he said, “I wish I could do something. I’ll have the snow pushed off the roof.”
“No,” said Molly, “no.”
“Why not?”
“Because the people would think I had joined with you. They would expel me. I don’t want to be expelled.”
Tonder said, “Yes, I see how that would be. You all hate us. But I’ll take care of you if you’ll let me.”
Now Molly knew she was in control, and her eyes narrowed a little cruelly and she said, “Why do you ask? You are the conqueror. Your men don’t have to ask. They take what they want.”
“That’s not what I want,” Tonder said. “That’s not the way I want it.”
And Molly laughed, still a little cruelly. “You want me to like you, don’t you, Lieutenant?”

Related Characters: Lieutenant Tonder (speaker), Molly Morden (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lieutenant Tonder Character Timeline in The Moon is Down

The timeline below shows where the character Lieutenant Tonder appears in The Moon is Down. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...hates “degenerate art” and prides himself in his commitment to his country’s leader. Finally, Lieutenant Tonder is a “dark romantic” who imagines falling in love with one of the village women... (full context)
Order, Control, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Lieutenant Tonder enters the room and looks over Hunter’s shoulder, asking why he’s designing a bridge. Embarrassed,... (full context)
Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...that he’s eager to go home, even if only for a furlough at Christmastime. Lieutenant Tonder, on the other hand, chimes in and makes it clear that he wants to stay... (full context)
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
...have been avoided. Corell then asks to speak with the colonel alone, and Lanser dismisses Tonder and Prackle, leaving Major Hunter in peace because the man hears nothing while working on... (full context)
Chapter 4
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
...was “the beginning of public anger.” The young man is then taken outside, where Lieutenant Tonder is commanding the firing squad. Mere moments after the shots are fired, a shout sounds... (full context)
Chapter 5
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
In these tense conditions, the officers seek refuge in the mayoral palace. One night, Prackle, Tonder, and Hunter sit in the darkness, the room lit only by lanterns because the town’s... (full context)
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
Order, Control, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Tonder continues voicing his aggravations, which revolve around loneliness and a feeling that the war isn’t... (full context)
Chapter 6
Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
...clear. After she leaves, Molly hears knocks on her door and opens to find Lieutenant Tonder. “I don’t mean any harm,” he says. When she asks what he wants, Tonder says,... (full context)
Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
Having let Tonder inside, Molly says, “You don’t know who I am, do you?” She realizes that he’s... (full context)
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
Empathy and the Effects of Fascism Theme Icon
Tonder tries desperately to elicit kindness from Molly, even reciting a short poem he claims he... (full context)
Democracy and Conquest Theme Icon
Moments after Tonder’s departure, Annie returns to Molly’s house and asks Molly why a soldier was in the... (full context)
Appearances and Civility Theme Icon
...front door. She reports that a soldier is coming up the path. Having learned that Tonder was inside Molly’s house not long ago, Orden asks the young widow if she’s in... (full context)
Chapter 7
Order, Control, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
...his advice, considering that Orden—he has learned—was in Molly Morden’s house on the night Lieutenant Tonder was stabbed to death. Corell reveals that he followed Molly to “the hills,” where she... (full context)