Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Chapter 13

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 13

  • The funeral procession is met by motorcycle police who say they are honestly just there to conduct them. They make their way through the business district.
  • The parade reaches the cemetery in safety. A young man arrives with a note from Dick to Mac: he's secured some beef and beans for the men, but they have to come fetch it right away.
  • Mac and Jim take a truck with some guards and head out to the farm. They have to be careful not to attract the attention of the police or the vigilantes.
  • A cop follows Jim and Mac to the gates of the farm, but not beyond, since it is private property.
  • The two cows and a calf are alive and have to be slaughtered. Jim knows how to do it but can't because of his arm. He gives directions.
  • On the way to the camp, the cop follows Mac and Jim at a distance. Mac gives directions to the driver to take the long way there, so they can avoid attracting attention in the town.
  • Mac and Jim bring the haul back to the camp, and everyone is excited—they haven't eaten in a long time. Jim, however, is in pain and needs Doc Burton.
  • Jim waits on the mattress in London's tent with Lisa and her baby. Doc appears, but he's got a lot to do and enlists Lisa's help to clean Jim's wound.
  • A man called Bolter arrives at the camp to negotiate with London. He's "fancy"—dressed in a suit and driving a shiny car. He is the new president of the Growers' Association.
  • Bolter's there to offer an olive branch: come back to work, and the Growers' Association will forget all this happened. But London and Mac aren't biting. They need their raise.
  • Bolter pretends that he's on the workers' side and that he'd like to clear up the mistakes of the previous administration.
  • Bolters offers the workers 20 cents (they got 15 before). It's still not enough to cover the pay cut, and London won't have it. Bolter turns on them and gives them a speech about American Labor. He also tells them that he's worked hard for everything he's got, and that he feels the "radicals" are just poisoning the fruit pickers. And it's un-American.
  • Bolter thinks that the workers would accept the offer if London would put it up for a vote. London tells him that the workers would probably rip him apart physically.
  • At that, Bolter gets scared and decides it's probably time to leave.
  • Bolter tells Mac and London that the Growers just want to settle things peacefully (despite the vigilantes), but they'll gladly ask for federal troops if necessary.
  • Sam loses his mind at this and tells Bolter about the violence on Bloody Thursday. London has to punch Sam to get him to calm down.
  • Bolter tells London that the "reds" among them are professional rabble-rousers, paid to start trouble. He says that they want peace and to give the men their jobs back.
  • But London tells Bolter that three of their men have been killed, their property has been destroyed, and their food supply has been cut. How is this peace?
  • Mac steps in and gives Bolter a piece of his mind. He tells Bolter the strikers can still make things uncomfortable for the Growers (he cites the routing of the Bonus Army in 1932).
  • Bolter calls Mac a "red" and tells the others that they'll be going to jail together. Mac reminds him that they have supporters and will riot if necessary.
  • Mac and London escort Bolter out of the camp so that the workers don't harm him, and London reports to the men the outcome of the talks.
  • Doc tells Jim that he is unhappy about the whole situation. The ugliness of the strike is making him feel lonely. He can't just think of the end result, like Jim.
  • This makes Doc philosophical. He proposes that mankind must hate itself. Jim says its filthy capitalism that men hate, but Doc tells him that the "other side" is only made up of men.
  • Burton wonders what Jim will get out of the strike, if anything. Jim absolutely does not care. He's doing something, and that's all that matters. But Doc wants to know how he got that way.
  • Jim tells him that he's not lonely anymore (as Doc is at that moment). He's part of a greater movement, a larger whole. So his individual life doesn't matter as much anymore.
  • Jim is pleased because he isn't like his dad, who used to fight alone and get beaten. Jim says that he is "more than himself."
  • Doc thinks this is nonsense; Jim thinks Doc talks too much.
  • Mac returns from telling the men about the meeting with Bolter and reports that the strikers are wild. But Doc has another problem: he's running out of supplies, like disinfectant.
  • Doc also tells Mac that he is lonely, but Mac only interprets that as the need for a woman. He tells Mac and Jim that he'll go and check up on Al.
  • Mac tells Jim that they'll send out squads of picketers in cars to break the police barricades. London returns and asks Mac to 'fess up: are they really reds?
  • Mac tells London the truth and has to convince him that he's not being paid to start trouble. London believes him when he says that he's just working toward solidarity among workers.
  • When London and Mac leave the tent to fetch some dinner, they notice a light coming from Anderson's house. But it's no light: it's a fire.
  • By the time the men get there, the barn is already engulfed in flame. The entire crop of apples is going up.
  • There's a bigger problem: Doc is missing. No one seems to know where he is.
  • Sam has decided to burn the house of Hunter, one of the orchard owners, in retribution. He tells London and Mac that he's doing it on his own.
  • Sam promises that if he gets caught, he won't say that London sent him. He also tells London to disown him if the police come asking questions. Mac encourages Sam's viciousness.
  • Jim doesn't think that Mac should have encouraged Sam. It was too personal—not about the cause. They start to fight, but then they turn to the problem of Doc's disappearance.
  • Mac thinks that the men who started the fire were surprised by Doc and kidnapped him.
  • Camp guards show up at London's tent. They've caught a high school boy with a gun lurking around the edges of the camp.
  • It turns out that the boy was acting on some talk in school, that somebody ought to do something about the strikers. Mac decides to make an example of the boy and coldly beats him.
  • London is kind of horrified by Mac's cold and calculating behavior. Mac says he couldn't have done it without Jim's silent encouragement. He says that Jim is even colder than he is.
  • Mac starts to fall apart a little bit, but Jim tells him he did the right thing. Nothing else to think about.
  • Mac thinks that he's probably created a monster in Jim, who is even more hardcore and Party-line than he is. He's actually kind of scared of Jim, who seems to have no feelings.
  • Now Jim starts to take over. He can't stand sitting around and waiting for the strike to fail. He tells Mac to summon London.
  • The guys hear a siren in the distance and realize that Sam has set his fire. Jim leaves the tent to find London for himself. He finds him and commands him back to the tent. London is surprised.
  • Jim tells London that he needs to get a backbone. There's little authority in the camp and the men are falling apart. He wants London to create policing squads to keep the men from running.
  • London is pretty annoyed at Jim for taking control of things. Mac doesn't know what to think, but Jim explains how things will work: London will take orders from him now.
  • Jim says he's doing it not for power, but for action.
  • Jim gives London a plan for beating up the scabs in the orchard the next morning. London decides to follow Jim's plan.
  • Something is definitely wrong with Jim (his eye is twitching), but no one wants to go against him. But he's also physically weak and has to go to sleep.
  • Mac writes a letter to Harry Nilson, begging for help since things are going so poorly. London returns after setting the guard, and they discuss Jim, but with no conclusion.
  • London asks Mac if reds really are "sons-of-b******." Mac explains that they are only SOBs to the guys trying to take all the goods for themselves.
  • London likes that answer and asks Mac if he can also be part of the Party. Mac thinks he'd be a great addition.
  • Mac tells London that they're probably going to lose the strike, but that's no big deal. The men have learned how to organize and strike. They've learned solidarity. That's important.
  • Mac makes London understand that the "red revolution" is really an uprising against hunger and poverty. And injustice. They have to use whatever means they have, which isn't much.
  • Mac explains that they're bound to lose the strike because power in that Valley is concentrated in too few hands. And those hands are organized really well. They know how to work the law.
  • Sam breaks into the tent at that moment. He tells them that he's probably killed a guard. He promises that he won't implicate the strikers in his actions if he is caught.
  • Sam runs on, and Mac tells London not to worry about him—the cause is bigger than the individual.
  • Mac leaves the sleeping Jim in London's care and makes his way into town to mail the letter to Nilson. London hears old Dan ranting in the hospital tent: he never got his enema.
  • London sends some men to tend to Dan and then falls asleep next to Jim in the tent.

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