Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Chapter 14

By John Steinbeck

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Chapter 14

  • Mac returns from his errand by morning and finds London and Jim still asleep. He's brought back a newspaper, which boasts headlines about the fire Sam set.
  • The paper also blames the strikers for the fire at Anderson's barn. An editorial blames the "red" agitators and endorses the use of vigilante parties to break the strike.
  • Jim now feels awful for the way he acted the night before, but Mac tells him that his behavior might still change things. They're going to break the barricades and chase the scabs.
  • Mac tells Jim about a hiding place under a bridge outside of town. If things get hot—and they seem to be heading that way—Mac wants Jim to head for it and wait it out.
  • Mac feels gloomy about the way things are going. He's pretty sure that Doc is not coming back, but he doesn't know if he's been killed or just beaten.
  • Mac and Jim speak to the guard who had been doing rounds the night before. Nothing had happened, but the men all felt that they were being watched.
  • Everyone is jumpy. It's clear that the workers are dissatisfied and tired of the strike.
  • Jim has a conversation at the toilets that pretty much confirms what they already know: the men are down and are starting to fight each other.
  • Jim encounters a beautiful woman. Her greeting alone warms him up and makes him feel good. He's feeling pretty desperate.
  • Mac and Jim learn that most of the food is gone. London is checking over the cars in the camp to see which ones will be able to break the barricades.
  • Mac and Jim learn that Anderson has already headed toward town—probably to file a complaint against the workers for trespassing.
  • Mac predicts what will happen, and it's not pretty. The people from town will probably come out in a mob, and there will be a fight. People will probably die.
  • The cars mobilize and head out toward the barricades. Jim and Mac go to visit Dan in the hospital tent. He's not doing well and hasn't eaten.
  • Jim realizes that the men in the cars are already returning. They weren't able to get anything done because the cops have guns and gas. They lost one of the cars and the men were taken.
  • Mac is discouraged because the other men in the other cars wouldn't fight—even though they were outnumbered and the police had weapons. He calls them "yellow" (not very inspiring).
  • Mac whines to Jim about how worthless he has been to the cause. Jim tries to encourage him and says he's just feeling down because he hasn't had any sleep.
  • Mac tells London and Jim that the workers are dispirited, and the only way to rouse them is to have them kill something. They need to see blood.
  • Jim brings Dan some food, but the old man refuses it. Lisa appears at the hospital tent, and Jim asks her to sit with Dan for a while. She smells death around him and doesn't want to stay.
  • Back in the camp, Burke appears and stands on the platform they'd used for Joy's funeral. He publicly accuses London of "selling out" for a load of canned food.
  • London attacks Burke and breaks his jaw while the crowd watches (there's some blood for them). London turns to the crowd and accuses the strikers of being lazy.
  • London's able to rile the crowd up enough to walk to the barricades and attack. Jim finds Mac, who is just waking up, in London's tent and gives him the report.
  • Soon the mob returns with London running at its head.
  • London forces Mac and Jim back into the tent and tells them to stay put because the workers want to lynch them (for having called them "yellow" earlier).
  • London manages to calm the crowd and reassert his authority. The raid against the barricades was successful, too, catching the police off guard.
  • London tells Jim that he's helped him to be a good leader. He didn't know what to do after he hit Burke, but then he saw Jim out in the crowd, pointing. It pleases Jim to have been of use.
  • But they all know that Mac and Jim were on the point of being lynched. Jim asks Mac if they've done the right thing with the strike. Have they messed it up?
  • Mac is angry with Jim. He still thinks that the strike is the only thing in the world. He explains to Jim that the strike has been a valuable wake-up call for the men, even if they lose.
  • Mac tells Jim that they have to keep fighting. If the men sneak off, they won't get the value of striking. It doesn't matter if some of them get killed. The cause has to stick.
  • London returns to the tent after visiting with Burke. He says that he's nearly killed the guy with a broken jaw.
  • But there's really nothing the guys can do, since Doc vanished. There's also the issue of Jim's arm, which isn't healing, and Dan—and a guy with a broken ankle. They're falling apart.
  • Jim and Mac decide to go check on Al up at the house since they haven't seen him in a bit. They leave London to hold the fort on his own.

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