Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Chapter 5

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 5

  • Jim goes to work in the apple orchards and immediately runs into old Dan. He is a cantankerous dude of 71 who wants nothing to do with Jim's talk about cut wages.
  • Dan talks about being a top-faller back when the Wobblies were plying their radical tactics to force employers to behave themselves.
  • But Dan doesn't seem too excited by Jim's talk. He really just wants to give up. He does tell Jim that he senses that the workers are agitated, like water about to boil.
  • Everyone is angry about the double-cross pulled by the Growers' Association with the wages.
  • Dan says that he hopes he's dead before any of it comes to a head. He's just plain tired.
  • When Jim brings his bucket of apples to the checker, the young man comments that he's not getting much done. Jim almost takes his head off, but he cools himself off. He goes back to work.
  • At the end of the day, Jim runs into Dan again. He tells the old man that he shouldn't be working in the orchard, but living off charity if he has to.
  • Dan about kills him for that. He has his dignity and reminds Jim that he used to be the macho top-faller back in the day.
  • He tells Jim that at least the work gives him an identity, even if he didn't really get a share of the profits. Dan is just not falling for Jim's rhetoric.
  • As they approach the eating and sleeping facilities for the workers, Jim and Dan discuss the economic injustice of that system.
  • The workers have to buy food from the company store from their wages—they don't have time to go into town—and it's far more expensive. They wind up eating their wages, really.
  • Dan doesn't really want to hear about how this is unfair. He just wants to eat and go to be alone so that he can get up and do it all again the next day.
  • Jim takes the opportunity to introduce Dan to Mac, who joins them. But Dan escapes quickly to get his food.
  • Mac spent the day working near London and found the man pretty receptive to the idea of a strike. London is going to bring his men over to the idea, too.
  • But Jim has only spent the day talking to Dan. Mac tells him he shouldn't waste his time with old men—it will only lead him to despair.
  • After they eat, Mac and Jim take a ride with London to visit one of London's friends called Dakin, who leads a group of workers in another orchard.
  • On the way, Jim and Mac encounter a private security person who is suspicious of them. But they get through, anyway.
  • Dakin and his family are living a somewhat comfortable life for migrant workers. Dakin has a truck and both he and his wife have some very expensive dental work.
  • Dakin's going to be a little harder to convert, since he seems to have a lot to lose. He doesn't want to spend time in jail and destroy his family.
  • But Jim is able to point out that even if they can absorb the pay cuts in the apple orchards, there is likely more to come when they move on to the cotton fields. Things will only get worse.
  • Mac tells Dakin that even if they lose this battle, it will give the cotton farmers something to worry about—maybe they won't try messing with the pickers' wages then.
  • Dakin is pretty convinced by that argument, even though he still doesn't like the idea of a strike. He promises to bring his own group of men in line when the time comes.
  • When they are in their bunks, Mac compliments Jim on his quick thinking with Dakin. But there's more work to be done, no matter how restless and excited Jim is that night.

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