In Dubious Battle

( 15 )

Overview

This 1936 novel—set in the California apple country—portrays a strike by migrant workers that metamorphoses from principled defiance into blind fanaticism.

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In Dubious Battle

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Overview

This 1936 novel—set in the California apple country—portrays a strike by migrant workers that metamorphoses from principled defiance into blind fanaticism.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Not among the author's best-known works, this 1936 story of a young man drawn into labor disputes between migrants workers and apple orchard landowners foreshadows the events of Steinbeck's 1939 masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, and offers many of the same societal criticisms and questions. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143039631
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Edition number: 60
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 130,450
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN STEINBECK (1902—1968) was born in Salinas, California. He worked as a laborer and a journalist, and in 1935, when he published Tortilla Flat, he achieved popular success and financial security. Steinbeck wrote more than twenty-five novels and won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Nearly all of his books are available in Penguin Classics.

Biography

John Ernst Steinbeck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Salinas, California February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, served as Monterey County Treasurer for many years. His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher who developed in him a love of literature. Young Steinbeck came to know the Salinas Valley well, working as a hired hand on nearby ranches in Monterey County. In 1919, he graduated from Salinas High School as president of his class and entered Stanford University majoring in English. Stanford did not claim his undivided attention. During this time he attended only sporadically while working at a variety jobs including on with the Big Sur highway project, and one at Spreckels Sugar Company near Salinas.

Steinbeck left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue a career in writing in New York City. He was unsuccessful and returned, disappointed, to California the following year. Though his first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, it attracted little literary attention. Two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown, met the same fate.

After moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1930, Steinbeck and his new wife, Carol Henning, made their home in Pacific Grove. Here, not far from famed Cannery Row, heart of the California sardine industry, Steinbeck found material he would later use for two more works, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

With Tortilla Flat (1935), Steinbeck's career took a decidedly positive turn, receiving the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal. He felt encouraged to continue writing, relying on extensive research and personal observation of the human drama for his stories. In 1937, Of Mice and Men was published. Two years later, the novel was produced on Broadway and made into a movie. In 1940, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Grapes of Wrath, bringing to public attention the plight of dispossessed farmers.

After Steinbeck and Henning divorced in 1942, he married Gwyndolyn Conger. The couple moved to New York City and had two sons, Thomas and two years later, John. During the war years, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches reappeared in Once There Was A War. In 1945, Steinbeck published Cannery Row and continued to write prolifically, producing plays, short stories and film scripts. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott and they remained together until his death.

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and keen social perception.." In his acceptance speech, Steinbeck summarized what he sought to achieve through his works:

"...Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species...Further more, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity of greatness of heart and spirit—gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature..."

Steinbeck remained a private person, shunning publicity and moving frequently in his search for privacy. He died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, where he and his family made a home. But his final resting place was the valley he had written about with such passion. At his request, his ashes were interred in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas. He is survived by his son, Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Amnesia Glasscock
      John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (full name); Amnesia Glasscock
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 27, 1902
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salinas, California
    1. Date of Death:
      December 20, 1968
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 16 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2007

    My first Steinbeck novel, but not my last!

    During the summer, I was required to read John Steinbeck's, In Dubious Battle, as part of the summer reading list for my schools advance placement language arts course. I also had to read Catch 22, The Glass Menagerie, and A Raisin in the Sun. Out of every novel, In Dubious Battle was the novel i enjoyed the most. Steinbeck's description of characters and surroudings is so vivid it makes them jump of the page. Not only is the novel highly descriptive, it is also fast paced. The characters, whether through speach or action, are always planning or carrying out plans. I have to say, this being my first Steinbeck novel, that I am thoroughly impressed with this novel. In fact, I have read other Steinbeck novels since then and have chosen John Steinbeck as the subject of my term paper for my language arts class. I recommend this to anyone interested in reading John Steinbeck's work.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2011

    FANTASTIC

    "In Dubious Battle" was a fascinating insight into the lives of the fruit pickers of the Great Depression era, and how their stories (while often unheard) are a great testament to the fearlessness and righteousness that many Americans feel living in this country. I feel as though the author's intended audience was a wide variety of people, but was mostly aimed at a group of individuals who wanted to feel a sense of pride and awe for a group of individuals that faced up to a giant when odds were against them. Even the name "In Dubious Battle" has both a literal meaning to the story, and a metaphysical one. The author kept me guessing to how the book was going to end from the very first page up until the last word. What I found most fascinating about this novel was how the characters were portrayed throughout. I found myself making a personal connection with the protagonist as he went through his trials, changing his persona slightly but steadily throughout the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be inspired to do something greater than themselves, and to those who may feel that when times are bad, there is always an alternative route.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2001

    One of the best of Steinbeck

    I had previously read Of Mice and Men as well as The Grapes of Wrath before encountering this novel. I picked it up because it was one mentioned as part of Steinbeck's three novels depicting the labor movement, the other two aforementioned. It was a great book, filled with detailed characters, a clear history of the events, and great footnotes for historical details (such as the Wobblies). It was captivating and read like a movie. I would call it thrilling if I didn't feel it was such a hackneyed word. Truly, one of my favorites of Steinbeck.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Hhh

    Amazing!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    Amazing perspective of a labor movement

    Really interesting

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Historical Key to The Present...and our Stuggling Economy

    John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle is really a tale of two tales. One, depicts Steinbeck's views on the Socialist and Communist struggle in the Depression. The other is society's struggle during the depression. The ladder is told by the two most prevalent characters in the book, Jim and Mac. Both these men symbolize the heroes of the Depression era. When no one would take a stand for the workers, these two, by themselves took an entire valley by storm. When Jim and Mac reached the Torgas Valley, predominantly dominated by the migrant apple farm workers, Steinbeck's tale of the socialist-communist struggle begins. Jim and Mac who in the reader's eyes seem to be radicals, really are not. Steinbeck's strategy can easily portray them as heroic-radicals, or just normal man earning a wage. This is what truly makes In Dubious Battle remarkable. Two spins on one minor event, which can majorly turn the reader to two conclusions. As the struggle for worker rights nears an apparent end, Steinbeck captivates the reader, by twisting and turning the plot until it seems as though you've embarked on another story. This is society's struggle, told by two men, read by millions. Jim and Mac, working together to unite the toughest group of workers, possibly in the entire Depression.

    In this book, I came to admire Steinbeck's character Jim. This man was dirt poor one minute, and the next he was leading a group of men in a way no one could imagine. It's because of Jim I realized that in our economic downfall, all we need is one person to stand up and speak out for the greater good. This is what Jim did, and he had no connection with any of the workers. Although it's hard imagine that Steinbeck wanted us to think like this while reading In Dubious Battle, I find it hard not to. The near poetic writing has a fluent and powerful hook that grabs your attention every page.

    Neither author, nor book is more needed in any present American library than John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle. The link between a struggling economy of today, and of the depression is one of this books focal points. Besides being a tale of two stories, this book also is an ingenious key to unwrapping the mysteries of economic downfall. Who ever knew an apple farmers strike could have so many meanings? ...Steinbeck.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 28, 2009

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