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Essay/Term paper: John stienbeck's indubious battle

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Argumentative Essays

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John Stienbeck's, In Dubious Battle is a relentlessly faced-paced, novel of social unrest and the story of a young man's struggle for identity, In Dubious Battle is set in the California apple country, where a strike by migrant workers against rapacious landowners spirals out of control. Caught up in this upheaval is Jim Nolan, a once aimless man who finds himself in the course of the strike, briefly becomes its leader, and is ultimately crushed in its service.

Jim Nolan's father was a working man driven to his death by blow of police clubs and pistol butts. As a youngster, Jim witnessed both his father's courage and his despair. He saw his mother loose even her religious faith as poverty and starvation overwhelmed the family.
Older, but still keenly remembering his youth, with the scars of brutality and starvation deeply embedded in his heart, Jim Nolan became a member of the Communist Party. He was assigned to work with Mac, an able experienced organizer. Together they became the fruit pickers, at a time when the fruit growers had cut wages lower than any worker thought possible. A strike was brewing, and Mac and Jim were determined to carry it along and direct its course.
Luck was with them. Shortly after their arrival at the camp of the workers, Mac, by giving the impression that he was a doctor, delivered the camp leader's grandchild. Word of his accomplishments spread throughout the area. After Mac and Jim became friends with London, the leader of the camp, and the other workers, they persuaded the fruit pickers to organize and strike for higher wages, and better living conditions. This was not easy to do. As usual the orchard owners had made effective use of communism. Furthermore, the vigilantes were a constant menace, not to mention deputies, troops, and strikebreakers, all hirelings of the fruit growers. In addition, the authorities could always close down the camp by maintaining that it violated the sanitation laws and was a menace to public health. There was also the problem of money and food. The poor migrant workers desperately needed work to supply their daily necessities.
But at last the strike was called, with a little help from old Dan. On the night that the strikers were going to sneak out to greet the strikebreakers, called in by the owners, Mac and Jim were ambushed by the vigilantes. They succeeded in escaping, but Jim was shot in the upper arm/shoulder area. Word of their plain for the next morning had leaked out, and they suspected a spy was in their midst. Never less, the next day they marched out to meet the strikebreakers at the railroad station, and to implore them not to fight against their fellow workers.
Although the police had assembled in force, they seemed afraid of the strikers. During the encounter, Joy, a friend of Mac's, and an old crippled comrade was shot and killed. The strikers carried the body back to the camp, and over the body of their comrade, Mac delivered a fiery and eloquent speech, exhorting the strikers to carry on, and fight to the finish. This action proved to be the best of all possible spurs to bring the workers together, and the strikers were aroused to carry on the struggle even more fiercely.
Luck was with them in other ways. They had persuaded the father of Al Townsend, who owned a local lunch cart, and gave handouts to party members, to allow them to camp on his farm, after they had promised to pick his crop and protect his property. Doc Burton a philosopher and skeptic, took charge of the sanitation, thus protecting the camp against the health inspectors. Dick, a handsome comrade, used his charm on women in order to get money and food for the strikers.
Meanwhile, the owners tried everything to break up the strike. They attempted to intimidate the workers, to divide them, and to bribe London, but all of their efforts failed. Then another problem arose. The owners had an article published in which it stated that the county was feeding the strikers. The report was not true but those who sympathized with the strikers believed it and stopped sending aid. Dick was getting far fewer results from his endeavors, and the situation became desperate.
Mac was often on the point of losing his head, letting his anger get the best of him, so that the strategy of the strike was sometimes imperiled. By contrast Jim grew more able, and more hardened. He ignored the women of the camp who sought to lure him in their tents, and did not allow his feelings toward Lisa to become anything more than a causal friendly relationship. Thus, he provided a sort of balance for his emotional comrades.
Conditions grew worse. The strikers had practically no money nor any food. Dick finally managed to get a cow and some beans, but the food lasted for just a few days. Meanwhile Doc Burton had vanished. Without his help the sick and the wounded could not be attended to, and the sanitation of the camp grew progressively worse. One night someone managed to outwit the guards and set afire to Anderson's barn, ruining his crops that were stored in there. The barn and an adjacent kennel housing some favorite pointers were both destroyed. The next day Anderson called the sheriff to evict the strikers.
The strike seemed lost. The spirits of the men were very low, and they gave signs of yielding. On the following night a boy came and told Mac and Jim that Doc Burton was lying wounded in a field. They rushed out, only to realize, when they were fired upon, that they had fallen into a trap. Mac called out a word of warning to Jim, and then fell on the ground. When the shot had stopped, he got up and called out for Jim, he got no answer. Jim was dead. By that time the shots had aroused the others and they came forward. Over the body of his comrade and friend, Mac made a strong rousing speech, urging the workers to stick together, and win the strike.
There are very few characters in this novel that Stienbeck develops throughly. There are about six characters that we come to know. They are Jim Nolan, the main character, Mac, a secondary main character that is a Communist Labor organizer, London, the leader of the fruit pickers, Doc Burton, a friend, and doctor of the strikers, Al Townsend, a man that is sympathetic toward the strikers, and Anderson, Al's father, who lets the strikers stay on his land.
Jim Nolan, the main character of the novel, is a person of feelings and dreams. He starts off the novel as Mac's student, but by the closing, he finds himself teaching Mac. In this scene Jim is taking charge of the camp and giving orders to London, the elected leader of the camp. "All right, tomorrow morning we are going to smack those scabs. I want you to pick the best fighters. Give the men clubs. I want two cars to go together, always in pairs . . . If they put up barricades, let the first car knock em' off, and let the second pick up the men from the wreck and go on through.". . ."I don't know what's happened to you," Mac went on. "I could fell it happen, you are starting to act like a real leader." This illustrates the change brought on by the strike, and how it affected Jim.
Mac, one of the secondary main characters in the story, is a communist labor organizer. He is always planning. He is, "too busy to feel." For example when Mac and Jim first arrived at the camp, Mac's aim at helping Lisa was tactical. "We've got to use whatever material comes to us. That was a lucky break. We simply had to take it. "Course it was nice to help the girl, but hell, even if it killed her, we've got to use everything." Throughout the course of the book Mac moves from a frustrated bystander to a charismatic leader to a symbolic martyr.
London is the leader of the fruit pickers, he is described as " . . . a large man . . . his shoulders were immense. Stiff dark hair grew in a tonsure, leaving the top of the head perfectly bald. His face was corded with muscular wrinkles and his dark eyes were as fierce and red as those of a gorilla. A power of authority was about the man. It could be felt that he led men as naturally as he breathed." London has a great leadership ability, and thus he was chosen to lead the strikers.
Doc Burton is a personal friend of Mac's. He laid out the camp site for the strikers, and he tended to sanitation. His good intentions are paralyzed by his philosophical mind. Doc believes that social change is pointless because evil is inherent in men, but he does what he can to help men and to ensure social improvement. Doc is the objective scientist, but he finds his distance from men painful. Doc stays distant, but his kindness is evident to everyone, and he is loved by the men he cares for.
Al Townsend is a kind man, who owns a lunch cart in town. He is sympathetic toward the strikers. He gives Party members free meals at his cart whenever they are in town. Al is the first person Mac and Jim met when they came into town. Toward the end of the novel, the vigilantes burn down Al's Lunch cart, and beat him up, because the strikers are staying on his property. Even after that happened Al was not a bit mad at the strikers he wanted to join the Party, along with Mac and Jim, and fight with them.
Mr. Anderson is described as begin small and quick like a terrier. He was a very hard worker, for you could tell right away by the looks of his immaculate yard and house. "The Energy seemed to pour out of some inner reservoir into his arms and legs, and into his fingers so that all of him was on the move all of the time. His white hair was coarse, and his eyebrows and mustache bristled. His brown eyes flitted about as restlessly as bees. Because his fingers had nothing else to do while he walked, they snapped at his side with little rhythmic reports. When he spoke, his words were like the rest of him, quick, nervous, and sharp."

The conflict in this novel is between the "fruit pickers" and the "land owners." This conflict is the entire basis of what take's place in the novel. The owners have waited until the pickers put themselves to the trouble and expense of coming to the valley. Then the announcement is made that prices promised to be paid for the work are to be lowered. The "fruit pickers" are caught. They are practically forced to take the loss and stay to do the picking.

The novel's theme is the organizers' recognition that anger must be sublimated into intense rage, and only then can it be enough to be useful. Mac refers to this them many times when he is trying to intensify the strikers. This was the main reason that Mac brought back the body of Joy to the camp, after he was shot to death. He wanted to use the body as a tool to enrage the strikers, and make them want to fight. Another example of the theme in use is when London broke Burke's jaw, and busted all of his teeth. When the strikers saw the blood, they went nuts, and they used the anger they had inside of them to go and break down the barricade that the police had set up down the road.

In Dubious Battle is a classic piece of literature. It not only deals with the struggle of the poor man against the rich, but it incorporates teamwork and self discipline to achieve a specific goal. In this case the conflict was the workers wanedt higher wages, and they had to take a stand against the arrogant land owners. London, along with Jim and Mac, steer the workers in a direction, to see this goal appear. They use the centralized theme of, recognition that anger must be sublimated into intense rage, and only then can it be enough to be useful. This theme is the most important concept of this novel. The theme is why everything happens the way it does, and it eventually transpires the outcome of the novel.

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