“In Dubious Battle” a novel written by John Steinbeck, revolves around an activist trying to help abused laborers obtain fair wages and better working conditions.
Steinbeck was a resident from California, and most of his influences on writing came from his personal experiences in his youth. One of them was working on nearby farms with migrant workers and obtaining insight on the conditions in which they work and how they’re treated.
This would give birth to one of Steinbeck’s most notable novels, “Of Mice and Men.”
For the most part, the story of “In Dubious Battle” takes place in the California Valley, following two characters named, Jim Nolan and Mac Mcleod. Their objective was to help the fruit workers organize and strike against their horrible working conditions as well as causing a big enough commotion to promote change for all workers in the field.
Everything plays out perfectly, but most of it was just plain luck. Jim and Mac slowly recruited individuals to the cause that was gradually building in a kind of domino effect. The primary catalyst that sparked the major strike was an old man falling off a ladder in an apple orchard.
There was some controversy when this novel was published. Two of the main characters were “Reds” or what is commonly referred to as Communists. During this time in the United States, there was a “Red Scare” that led its citizens to believe that Communism could have destroyed Capitalism.
Throughout the novel, the individuals that interacted with Jim and Mac were suspicious of them being communists with their, “Radical Beliefs.”
The other main critique of this novel was mostly from detractors. They believed that it really didn’t portray the spirit of labor organizers with philosophical generalizations, despite Steinbeck’s extensive research of party organizers and contemporary strikes.
So why is this novel significant? It’s simple, really. “In Dubious Battle” was published in 1936 and was a perfect platform for social commentaries and keeping the public aware of what goes on in the world. An example of this is “Silent Spring” written by Rachel Carsen. This novel informed the public of how harmful pesticides are to humans as well as life itself. So Steinbeck used writing as a medium to share his philosophies and the injustices to migrant workers.
Juan Martinez, a Chabot student, said, “I’ve actually helped out in some orchards in Sonoma Country. Some of the days were incredibly hot and really long. I couldn’t imagine working out there without having some kind of security. This novel gave me an insight into how things were, and I’m glad they have changed for the better.”
Even though his novel “In Dubious Battle” was entirely overshadowed by his most famous novels such as “Of Mice and Men” and “Grapes of Wrath,” it is still considered to be one of his best works.