Monday, June 13, 2016

In Dubious Battle

609482'This book is brutal. I wanted to be merely a recording consciousness,' Steinbeck said of In Dubious Battle, which aroused immense controversy when first published in 1936. It follows the fortunes of Jim Nolan, disenfranchised and alone, his family destroyed by the system. Desperate to find his place in the world, Jim joins the Communist Party and becomes entangled in a strike of migrant workers which spirals out of control, unflinchingly detailing the apocalyptic violence that breaks out when the masses become the mob. This fast-paced, compelling novel is at once a brilliant observation of social and political turmoil and a moving story of a young man's struggle for identity. In Dubious Battle explores and dramatises many of the ideas and themes key to Steinbeck's writing.

*May Contain Spoilers*

In Dubious Battle is a book I had never heard of before I started doing research on John Steinbeck. I've heard of his most popular titles, even read a couple in high school, but not this one. Which is surprising because it is a powerful book. John Steinbeck tells a story, shares a culture, inspires readers, and lets them see the consequences. 

Jim is the main character of this minefield novel. He's young, feeling lost and lonely, searching for something to be a part of. A lot of readers will be able to relate to this feeling and understand why Jim joins the red party, even though it's obvious it's going to brew up trouble. As the book goes along and the strike grows more and more threatening, Jim grows as well. He wants to be used for something important, but his partner Mac doesn't think he's ready. Jim stirs the pot and hopes for a chance to do something big, and he gets exactly that in the cruelest and saddest way possible. 

In Dubious Battle begins with Jim quitting his job and leaving his rented room to become a party member. Mac brings him on and takes him to his first assignment. Apple Orchards in Torgas Valley dropped the wages of their pickers and Mac believes they can be convinced to strike. Reading how manipulative Mac is and how they convince the workers to strike is incredibly interesting. How a little twist of the truth can motivate a man to fight back. Steinbeck wanted to analyze the social consciousness of this movement and he did. Underneath the nice words and supportive personality, Mac is a viper who uses everyone and anyone to keep the chaos churning. And readers see what happens to an innocent man, who doesn't have anything or anyone, when he gets involved thinking he can help only to be twisted like a key to open the next door. It's tragic and powerful. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups

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