Study Guide

Dick in In Dubious Battle

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Yeah, Steinbeck totally has some 6th-grade-level fun with this character, who uses his good looks to extract donations of money, food, and supplies for the Party's activities. When Mac finds a plate of cupcakes in their flophouse—a luxury in a place where there usually isn't enough food to go around—he gleefully proclaims:

"Here's some more of Dick's work," he said. "That Dick uses the bedroom for political purposes. Gentlemen, I give you the Du Barry of the Party!" (17)

Dick has nothing good to say about Mac's jesting. His good looks and his ability to seduce potential donors give us a glimpse of a different kind of battlefield and the tactics that the Party uses when it doesn't have things like political clout or guns.

While Dick's assignments sound far more pleasant than those of Joy, Mac, and Jim, he surely does have a moment or two when he has to, um, do a job that he doesn't like:

"I had some trouble with one old dame. She wanted to help the cause somethin' terrible."

Mac laughed. "I never knew no maiden modesty to keep you out of the feed bag. S'pose she did want to give her all to the cause?"

Dick shuddered. "Her all was sixteen axe-handles acrost," he said. (150)

Har har.

While Dick has to face an angry mob or two in the work, really his greatest personal peril happens at the hands of an amorous, oversized woman who likes what she sees.

And that, friends, is the closest thing you will get to comic relief in the whole of this bleak novel.

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