The quote "the one impossible job in the world, the one thing that cannot be done is to break man's spirit permanently" is true, whilst it represents the fact that good will always in the end triumph over evil. According to the quote and how it is impossible to break the townspeople's spirits permanently is reflected throughout the story with the townspeople first being defeated in a flash at the start of the story.
"By ten forty-five it was all over. The town was occupied, the defenders defeated, and the war finished".
But after events such as the execution of Alex Morden, the townspeople fight back using methods such as not talking to the enemy, showing hatred towards the enemy and remaining indoors and staring at the patrols that walked through the town. This eventually caused enemy to doubt what they are doing, doubt if they are being told the truth and wanting to go home.
At the start of the book the soldiers invade the town easily and lieutenant Tonder is in high hopes as he reveals thoughts of living in the occupied territory after they have finished their occupation. Tonder says,"There are some beautiful farms here. If four or five of them were thrown together, it would be a nice place to settle, I think" (34).
The invaders were then in full control of what happened in the town and as a result of their occupation they had tainted the spirits of the townspeople who seem to have no immediate hope of freedom. Although Tonder expects the war to be over quickly but Steinbeck makes mention that only Colonel Lanser knows what war is really like. That war is really about treachery and hatred, the middling of incompetent generals, the torture and killing and sickness, until at last it is over and nothing has changed except for new weariness and new hatreds" (188). Implying the soldiers think that war is a game and after their occupation it would shortly come to an end, not aware that they still have a struggle to bring the town to order and to fulfill their objective.
As the book moved on the spirit and feeling among the townspeople went up while the soldiers felt more and more lonely and doubtful about what they were doing. While the soldiers now had only each other to talk to and Tonder longed to go home. "The men of the battalion came to detest the place they had conquered...and gradually a little fear began to grow in the conquerors, a fear that it would never be over" (65-66). So as the war between the invaders and the townspeople continued it was the invaders who were becoming more and more afraid and with the reference to Mayor Orden's quote that the townspeople hadn't had their spirit's or sense of emotional states shattered and knew that they were the ones who were now conquering the invaders.
"Flies conquer the flypaper" (104).
This quote by Tonder comes when he along with other soldiers are questioning whether the town has been conquered and if so then why are they the ones who are feeling lonely and dejected after years of occupation.
Later on Tonder's view about the townspeople changed from nice and pleasant people to horrible and cold people who never look at you, never speak to you and that they answer like dead men and he also points out that the girls are frozen. This tactic used by the townspeople to deter the soldiers showed that they in spirit and realize that if they resist coming into contact and cooperating with the invaders that this will cause them to lose control. With no one but his fellow soldiers to talk to, Tonder suspects that news might not be getting to them from home.
"If anything happened- at home, I mean - do you think they would let us know...well, I would like to get out of this god-forsaken hole!" (70-71).
In Tonder's loneliness he visits Molly Morden. He still feels that the townspeople are ignoring the invaders because of the fact that they have been conquered and that they are at war. Tonder quotes "Can you understand this - can you believe this? Just for a little while, can't we forget this war?... can't we talk together like people - together" (83). Tonder knew he needed someone to talk and someone to be liked by such as Molly and Molly suggests that he would want two sausages in exchange for her love. This shows that the power is now in the hands of the townspeople and even though they were conquered, have no food or everyday requirements. While Tonder will do anything to make Molly like him. This comes through the spirit of the townspeople if not giving up and striving for a normal life again.