Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Plot Analysis

By John Steinbeck

Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation): Shaking the Dust Off His Shoes

Jim Nolan walks away from his failed attempt at a life and is accepted for membership in the Communist Party. He tells essential parts of his story to his recruiter, Harry Nilson. We learn that Jim has felt dead inside for a long time, and he hopes that working for something bigger than himself will energize him. When he meets Mac and begins working, he knows he's made the right decision.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication): Smooth Sailing—'Til It's Not

Jim and Mac head out to the Valley to organize the workers and fall right in with London. They garner support from the men, find a place for them to stay, get the Doc on board and set up camp. Mac and Jim have scary encounters with police and vigilantes. Jim is itching to do something active and useful.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point): The Empire—erm, Growers' Association—Strikes Back

Jim finally gets to go out picketing—and he winds up getting shot in the shoulder while clashing with scabs and orchard workers. The scabs arrive on the freight trains and the strikers brave police forces to reach them. Joy appears among them and is assassinated. There is conflict with Dakin, who winds up losing his truck and getting arrested. Vigilantes burn Al's wagon and Anderson's barn.

Falling Action: Fall from Grace

Mac and Jim figure out that Doc is missing and wonder what to do about it. They try to apologize to Anderson, who won't have any of it. He's had the strikers evicted from his property, and the heavily armed sheriff appears at the camp to give them notice. Mac wants the men to fight back, but they are utterly bummed. Jim is tapped to rally the men for a fight.

Resolution (Denouement): False Summons

Jim and Mac are lured out of camp with the promise of finding Doc, but then they are ambushed. Jim's face is blown off. Oops. Mac brings Jim's body back to camp and shows it to the workers in the hope that it will shock and anger them into action on their own behalf.

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