Study Guide

London in In Dubious Battle

London

The Strong, Silent Type

Our initial impression of London is, well, pretty sparse. When Mac asks the men around the campfire at the orchard about London, he gets this:

"London's a good guy—a big guy. We travel with him. He's a big guy." (42)

Okay, we get it: London's big. Mac figures that London's size and temperament make him the boss of a large group of workers, even if the men won't admit it. But what other qualifications does London actually have to make him a leader of men?

Not many, as it turns out. We learn that London's bigness and quickness of temper are enough to make men follow him or seek out his protection, but that he really needs Mac and Jim to help him with pretty much everything else.

But we've got to admit: London has the heart of a lion. While he gets nervous about public speaking, he's not afraid to use his size to advantage. As the workers surround the train depot to "greet" the incoming scabs, for example, London steps right up to the task, despite the ring of armed guards:

Then London stepped out in front, stepped so close to a guard that the shot-gun muzzle turned and pointed at his stomach, and the guard moved back a pace. [...] His deep voice roared, "Come on over, you guys. Don't fight against us. Don't help the cops." His voice was cut off by a shriek of steam. (127)

London has no problem in the courage department, but his words are less than effective. Mac still believes that London has what it takes to work for the Party and tells him so. It's even possible that the Party will get far more mileage out of London—tall, strong, sensible, tongue-tied London—than a dramatic figure like Jim.