Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Chapter 11

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 11

  • The food is running low, and the men basically have nothing but beans and pork grease to eat.
  • Mac and Jim head over to London's tent (Dakin's wife has struck camp and left) and find him eating from a private stash of canned food. He offers to share.
  • Dick shows up with a newspaper that reports the supposed goodwill of the orchard supervisors: they mean to send food to the strikers.
  • Mac knows that it's actually a tactic to starve them out. They won't send food, and sympathizers in town will assume that the strikers have all the supplies they need.
  • Dick needs London to write a letter telling the truth about the food situation in camp. Mac writes it for him and signs London's name for him as well, with London's consent.
  • Mac tells Dick that the man killed at the railroad station was old Joy. He tells Dick that they will have a funeral for Joy the next day.
  • London is worried about making a speech at the funeral, and Mac tries to coach him.
  • Doc appears and suggests that they go to visit Al. London sent an unwilling guard up to Al's house, but they haven't checked on that yet.
  • Mac questions Doc on the way to Al's: Why is he there? Doc doesn't believe in the Cause, so what's the deal?
  • Doc tells Mac that he believes in men, and that he feels the need to help when they are ill or struggling. It's his purpose in life.
  • When the men arrive at the Anderson house, the guard doesn't challenge them. They find them lounging in the barn, smoking ciggies.
  • Mac gives the guards hell for slacking and sends them out to try again, but he knows they'll be back in the barn after a little while.
  • Back at the house, Mr. Anderson is not too happy with the way things are going. And Al can hardly move with all his wounds.
  • But Al is pretty fired up, and he wants Mac to bring him an application for the Party. Mac asks him his reasons for joining, and Al remembers the cop who stood by and watched him get beaten.
  • Mac thinks it's ironic how the Party gets a surge in applications whenever men are beaten and the authorities turn a blind eye. He promises to bring an application to Al as soon as he can.
  • Anderson says he plans to move the apples from the barn in the morning and Mac promises to find guards to ride on the truck.
  • Jim and Doc chat while Mac goes to take one more look at the lazy guards. Doc can tell that Jim is happy, despite everything. Jim agrees: he's happy for the first time in his life.
  • Doc explains that he feels something like Jim's solidarity with the working man around the world—only he feels it for men who do stupid things and die for it. Prophetic?
  • Mac returns. Doc says he feels sorry for Anderson, since it's clear that he will lose everything. Mac tells him that Anderson is just a sacrifice for the cause and can't be saved.
  • Doc doesn't judge Mac for this harsh assessment, but he worries about Anderson's feelings. Mac tells him that feelings don't matter—there's bigger stuff at stake.
  • But Doc doesn't give up right away. He tells Mac that Anderson isn't like Joy: Anderson doesn't like any of this. Mac tells him to knock it off. Doc's theories of human emotion bother him.
  • When the men reach the camp again, a truck pulls in and delivers Joy in his coffin. The coffin is deposited in London's tent, much to Lisa's (London's daughter-in-law) dismay.
  • Mac suggests that Lisa and her husband sleep in the hospital tent while Mac and Jim stay with Joy's corpse in London's tent.
  • After the young couple leaves, Mac takes the lid off of Joy's coffin to have a look. He wants to figure out if they should have an open coffin at the funeral to stoke the crowd up a bit.
  • But Joy looks clean and calm, which is of no use to their cause. Mac closes up the coffin again and decides against a display.
  • Mac eulogizes Joy a little, saying that he never wanted anything for himself. Joy didn't understand why people had to go hungry while others threw perfectly good food away.
  • Mac ends by saying that Joy was not a "poor little guy"—he was bigger than himself, part of a larger cause. London is so impressed by this speech that he asks Mac to speak at the funeral.
  • But Mac knows that the men want to hear from their boss, not from him. He tries to coach London again on what to say.
  • Mac hopes that the funeral will rile the crowd and incite them to violence. Doc doesn't understand this thinking.
  • Rain begins to fall and soak through the tent. Mac worries that this will literally dampen the spirits of the men even more.
  • Jim tells Mac not to worry: sometimes miserable men fight even harder. We learn that Jim's arm isn't healing as it should.
  • Despite the rain, the general misery and the coffin in the middle of the tent, the men finally fall asleep for the night.

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