We are lucky to have many talented writers who have successfully taught US history through their outstanding pieces of literature. One writer of this kind is John Steinbeck in the novel In Dubious Battle. It takes place in the 1930’s when Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt was President. The story is set in a small, rural, part of California, which is known as the Torgas Valley. The novel occurred before World War II at the late part of the Great Depression. The US was still recovering from the downfall from most of the American Industries that fell during the Great Depression. Due to the Industrial Revolution, there were no longer any large industries to support the overflowing amount of workers. The farms were the only place that needed a large work force. Therefore many of the workers had to move to the rural areas to support their needs and to survive. The farm owners were now able to cut the wages significantly, knowing that the workers would not quit and they would get all the work done.
The main character in In Dubious Battle is Jim Nolan. Throughout the novel his life constantly changes. No day is typical in his life. At first he was a normal working man in the urban parts of California. However, he was not satisfied with his job and wanted to have a completely different life. He then decided to join the Reds, or Radicals, which was a Party that wanted to start strikes and protest against the low wages given to all the workers. Mac Mcleod, which was the Party Organizer, had a strong influence on Jim’s daily life. Jim would follow Mac around town and find sympathizers who would help the Reds by contributing food, money, and shelter whenever needed. Jim was given different jobs such as dropping off letters in the mailboxes, typing different paper works, and stamping letters.
In the middle of the novel, Jim’s real experience as a Red was at the apple orchard in the Torgas Valley. On a ideal day, he would wake up at dawn from the tent, eat a horrible breakfast, and then go apple picking. Jim’s responsibility at the apple orchard was to pick apples and talk to the other workers about the low wages and convince them to strike.
At the end of the novel when the strike was about to break out, Mac and Jim convinced Al, a sympathizer, to persuade his father in to allowing all the strikers to camp at his farm. In return, the strikers would pick apples from Al’s father’s farm. During Jim’s days of striking, Jim, Mac, and London would organize and plan the strike. London became the leader of the strike. Jim would go into other farms and try to keep scabs from working. If the scabs did not go on the striker’s side, the strikers would fight them.
An important event in Jim’s life was when he decided to join the Red Party. The outcome of Jim joining the party was his death. His whole life changed drastically by joining the party. He had to learn how to be wise, strong, and fight in a strike. When he joined the party he went to the Torgas Valley where he was shot in the shoulder while trying to fight off the scabs. If he had never joined the party he would have still been alive. Also if the Great Depression would have never happened then there would be no need to strike and Jim would have never joined the Red party. Therefore his decision to join the party was very crucial.