Study Guide

In Dubious Battle Chapter 9

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 9

  • In the morning, the camp in Anderson's field comes alive. Dakin calls a meeting of the squad leaders and tells them the plan. They'll meet the scabs and try to talk to them. If that doesn't work, they'll fight them to keep them out of the orchards.
  • The men set out along the road toward the train station and the deputy sheriffs keep up with them. The workers seem subdued, and Mac thinks they're in trouble—there's not enough anger.
  • Mac tries to rile the workers up a bit by telling them that the police think they have the right to strike but not to picket. It doesn't really work.
  • Things go from bad to worse when the men reach town. People stare at them from businesses and houses, and now the workers feel ashamed.
  • When they reach the train line, the men find it guarded by armed police. Things are tense, and Mac and Jim wonder if they will miss out on their chance to confront the men.
  • Mac notices the buildings across the way from the train line. There are men peeking out of the windows, but something about it doesn't seem right. For one, there are no women.
  • The strikebreakers then arrive on the freight trains, but they don't make any moves to disembark when they see their welcoming committee.
  • London defies the guards to step forward and call out to the strikebreakers. He asks them to join the workers instead. Unfortunately, the trains make so much noise that London can't be heard.
  • The strikers get restless and the cops raise their shotguns to warn them. And at that moment, crazy old Joy bursts out of one of the freight trains.
  • Joy raises his arms to motivate the scabs to join the strikers—and some of them actually listen to him. They move toward the line of strikers. At that moment, three shots ring out.
  • Mac sees rifles being pulled in through the windows in the buildings across the way. Joy has been hit and dies moments later.
  • London moves forward toward Joy, and the guards raise their guns again. But this time, the workers are motivated. They don't care about the guards and their guns.
  • Mac tells Jim that Joy has finally done something useful—and that he'd be happy. It's an awful thing to say, but it appears to be true.
  • Because now, the strikers and the scabs are gathering around Joy's body. Mac tells Dakin they've got to take Joy's body back to the camp.
  • They've got to use his death as material for their cause. Dakin is disgusted by this suggestion, but Jim convinces him that Joy wanted to help them.
  • Mac, London, and Jim collect Joy's body from the ground. Joy is so little that London picks him up like a baby and heads toward Dakin's truck.
  • The sheriff tries to claim Joy's body—and to claim that the strikers shot him—but London won't have it. He accuses the sheriff right back.
  • London tells the sheriff that he'd better get his men out of there, or they're going to get killed. The workers are mighty angry now.
  • The sheriff backs off but promises to get them in the end. Mac tells Jim that Joy was killed by vigilantes who went too far.
  • Mac tells Jim more about the vigilantes: they're men who think they are patriots or protectors of the constitution, but they really are just in it to lynch people they don't like.
  • Jim begins to feel sorry for Joy, who reminds him of his own abused father. But Mac tells him not to worry about Joy: this kind of death would have pleased him.
  • Mac figures that some scabs came over to their side, but not all. Also, some of the picketers ran away, so they have about the same number of people as when they started.
  • But the strikers are "waking up," and that's a good thing. Mac is still doubtful of a victory, but they've got Joy's funeral to look forward to, and that should motivate the workers more.
  • Doc meets them at the camp and sees the dead man in London's arms. They bring the body to Doc's hospital tent, and it's only then that he sort of recognizes Joy.
  • Doc tells the men that they will have to release the body to the coroner, but Mac is sure they'll be able to get it back for a funeral. He directs men to build a platform for it.
  • Dakin is still disgusted that Mac is trying to capitalize on Joy's death, but Mac tells him that they have to use what little resources they have to fight.
  • London promises to make a speech at Joy's funeral, since Dakin won't. And now Mac has to deal with Anderson, who is freaking out about the whole situation.
  • Anderson tells Mac that some men burned down Al's lunch wagon and broke Al's arm and ribs.
  • Mac tries to soothe Anderson, but he's pretty riled up. In the end, Mac has to remind him where to direct his anger: at the perpetrators.
  • Mac also promises to set up a guard at Anderson's house and to send Doc Burton to Al. Mac reminds Anderson, too, that he was going to lose his farm to the growers at any rate.
  • Mac asks Jim if he's still so gung-ho about the Party now that all of his romantic notions have been shattered. But Jim seems to be holding up okay.
  • As the men make their way to dinner, the coroner shows up and demands Joy's body. Mac tells him where to find it, and the coroner is astonished that he doesn't have to fight anyone for it.
  • Mac and Jim get some pork for dinner and see that the cooks aren't able to cook the meat all the way through because the men are too hungry.
  • Order is falling apart somewhat in the camp at this point.

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