Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Chapter 12

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 12

  • In the morning, Doc comes to tend to Jim's wound. He says that old Dan is angry about missing the funeral. He feels that he's the one who started the strike and should be involved.
  • Jim wants to go into town and try to help Dick find some food, since they are running out, but Mac won't have it. He knows that Jim is a marked man, and it's too dangerous.
  • But Mac also doesn't want Jim to walk in the funeral procession through town, since he's still too weak from his wound. Jim doesn't like this at all.
  • Mac sends Jim to do some busy work: he has to talk to the guys in the camp and see how they're feeling about the strike. But first, Jim has to visit Dan in the hospital tent.
  • On the way, Jim runs into Lisa, who is still nursing her baby. She tells Jim that she nurses so much because it feels good. Then she immediately regrets telling him.
  • Jim breaks away from the small talk with Lisa and gets to the hospital tent. Dan is in a bad way and as uppity as before. He gives Jim hell for abandoning him after the accident.
  • Dan complains that he's going to get left behind when everyone goes to Joy's funeral. Jim tells him that he can ride in the procession, right up with the coffin.
  • Dan is pleased as punch by this and simmers down. He wants to have his chance to lead the men.
  • When Doc returns, Jim asks him if Dan is going crazy. Doc tells him no: poor guy is in shock and needs an enema to clean him out. Eek.
  • Jim moves through the camp and tries to talk to the men. He meets up with a group of guys and starts talking about Joy's funeral. There's a man in the group who is especially discontented.
  • This man wonders what London is getting out of the strike, and implies that he's getting paid for it. Another man in the tent who knows London practically attacks him for the slander.
  • But the guy keeps it up. This time, he's trying to scare the other men by saying that the scabs have weapons and are going to attack. He also says that nothing will change as long as the "reds" are in the camp, and that Doc Burton is a red. And that's all that Jim and London's friend will take. The guys run him out of the tent.
  • Jim realizes that the guy is probably a plant sent in by the owners. He was sent to make the men unhappy about the strike and its leaders.
  • Jim tries to encourage the other men by saying that they need to stick together not just for themselves, but for all the workers in the country. It seems to work.
  • Joy's coffin is brought out of London's tent and set up on a little platform. But London is still sweating about the speech he has to make. He begs Mac to do the talking, but Mac won't.
  • Mac tells London that he'll help him along if he screws up the speech. And London kind of does. He manages to repeat a few things that Mac told him, but the speech is brief and non-inspirational.
  • Mac can't waste an opportunity like this, so he takes over. He reminds the men that Joy was called a radical because he believed that every worker deserved to eat.
  • Mac tells about Joy's sufferings, about how he was never helped when he was wounded because he was a "red." And then he tells the men that Joy suffered for them, not for himself.
  • It seems to do the trick. The men are pretty riled up, and they file behind the coffin for the long walk through town and up to the cemetery.
  • Doc is impressed with Mac's ability to work a crowd and asks him where he learned how to do it. But Mac is really in no mood for chatting. He tells Doc that he just feels it.
  • Doc tells him that Dan has decided not to go on the procession, since it is too painful for him to move.
  • Mac tells Jim to get in the truck with the coffin, even if he doesn't like it. The pallbearers are riding so that it won't look strange to the other men that Jim is there.

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