In Dubious Battle Summary
Jim Nolan’s father is a working man brought to his death by the blows of police clubs and pistol butts. As a youngster, Jim witnesses both his father’s courage and his despair. Jim sees his mother lose even her religious faith as poverty and starvation overwhelm the family. Older, but still keenly remembering his youth, with the scars of brutality and starvation deeply embedded in his heart, Jim becomes a member of the Communist Party. He is assigned to work with Mac, an able, experienced organizer. Together, they become fruit pickers, at a time when the fruit growers cut wages lower than the workers think possible. A strike is brewing, and Mac and Jim determine to hurry it along and to direct its course.
Luck is with them. Shortly after their arrival at the camp of the workers, Mac, giving the impression that he is a doctor, helps London’s thirteen-year-old daughter-in-law Lisa give birth. Word of Mac’s accomplishment spreads throughout the area. After Mac and Jim becomes friendly with London, leader of the camp, and the other workers, they persuade the fruit pickers to organize and to strike for higher wages and for better living conditions. This is not easy to do. As usual, the orchard owners make effective use of communism as a bogey. Furthermore, the vigilantes are a constant menace, not to mention deputies, troops, and strikebreakers, all hirelings of the fruit growers. In addition, the authorities can always close down the camp by maintaining that it violates the sanitation laws and is a menace to public health. There is also the problem of money and food; the poor migrant workers desperately need work to supply their daily necessities.
Despite these difficulties, a strike at last is called. On the night that the strikers are to sneak out to meet the strikebreakers called in by the owners, Mac and Jim are ambushed by vigilantes. They succeed in escaping, but Jim is shot in the arm. Word of their plan for the next morning had leaked out, and they suspect that a stool pigeon is in their midst. Nevertheless, the next day they march out to meet the strikebreakers at the railroad station and to implore them not to fight against their fellow workers. Although the police assemble in force, they seem afraid of the strikers. During the encounter, Joy, an old and crippled comrade, is shot and killed. The strikers carry the body back to the camp, and over the body of their comrade, Mac delivers a fiery and eloquent speech, exhorting the strikers to carry on and to fight to the finish. This action proves to be the best of all possible spurs to bring the workers together, and the strikers are aroused to carry on the struggle even more fiercely.
Luck is with them in other ways. They persuade the father of Al Townsend, who owns a lunch cart and gives handouts to Communist Party members, to allow them to camp on his farm, after they promise him that his crop will be picked and that his property will be protected. Doc Burton, a philosopher and skeptic, takes charge of the sanitation, thus protecting the camp against the health inspectors. Dick, a handsome comrade, uses his charms on women in order to get money and food for the strikers. Meanwhile, the owners try everything to break up the strike. They attempt to intimidate the workers, to divide them, to bribe London, but all their efforts fail. Then another problem arises. The owners have an article published in which it is stated that the county is feeding the strikers. The report is not true, but those who...
(The entire section is 948 words.)