Abstract

This article examines the strikes that provided the basis for In Dubious Battle. Building on the work of Jackson J. Benson and Anne Loftis, I analyze how Steinbeck utilized episodes from the Tagus Ranch peach strike in August of 1933 and a cotton strike throughout the San Joaquin Valley that October. Through the use of periodical accounts, I examine how Steinbeck deviated from the particulars of these labor disputes to clarify the central themes of the novel. Further, the article brings these events to bear on the representation of Mac and Jim Nolan, whose motives and methods have been the subjects of significant critical scrutiny. While Steinbeck does not necessarily present these characters in a favorable manner, In Dubious Battle indicates that the primary responsibility for human suffering rests on the growers since they preside over an economic framework that limits the opportunities available to the working class.

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