Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By John Steinbeck

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Anticipation Stage: Jim Zombie-Walks into Communism

Jim arrives at Harry Nilson's office in the hopes that working for the Communist Party will make him feel alive again after a lifetime of violence and hopelessness. He wants a life of purpose and utility, something that will help him strike back against a system that seems intent on destroying him.

Dream Stage: Jim Finds His Feet

Jim meets Mac, Dick, and Joy at the flophouse. He tackles his first assignment (typing letters) and feels amazing because he's doing useful work. Mac and Jim hop trains, hobo-style, to get to Jim's first big job in the Valley. He and Mac have a ridiculously easy assimilation into the orchard, find all the resources they need—and Jim scores a pretty sweet point against Dakin's objections, which helps convince the men to go out on strike. Life is good.

Frustration Stage: Jim Gets Antsy

Things stagnate for the strikers: they can't parade without the cops harassing them; they can't legally picket; food begins to get scarce. Both Mac and Jim are now marked men, and they barely escape a serious lynching attempt. Jim longs for something useful to do, but Mac wants to protect him. When he finally sees action, Jim gets shot in the shoulder—but nothing much else is achieved.

Nightmare Stage: Things Really, Really Fall Apart

After the attack on Al and his lunch wagon and the burning of Anderson's barn, Mac begins to fall apart at the seams. The workers will soon be evicted from Anderson's field, so it looks like the strike has failed.

They are all dispirited and terrified after the sheriff makes a big show of force when he delivers the eviction notice. Jim is extremely anxious to try his hand at rallying the men for a fight and doesn't seem to mind if he loses everything. Mac does mind and wants Jim to hightail it out of town.

Destruction: Jim Falls

Jim is feeling all zealous and worked up about getting his big chance to make a difference. He and Mac don't think twice when a boy tells them that an injured doctor (possibly Doc Burton) is lying in a field nearby. Jim runs recklessly toward the field—and is cut down by a spray of buckshot.

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