In Dubious Battle
This 1936 novel—set in the California apple country—portrays a strike by migrant workers that metamorphoses from principled defiance into blind fanaticism.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Which of the following details from this paragraph lends the reader the impression that Jim is leaving this room behind?
From this conversation, the reader can infer that Mrs. Meer is Jim's
During the Depression of the 1930's, these towns were skirted by failing businesses and slums of migrant workers. (This annotation contains an image)
Many of Steinbeck's works take place in areas similar to Salinas Valley, where he grew up in California. (This annotation contains an image)
When Steinbeck describes the man's hands and eyes as being "nervous," he most likely means that the man's hands and eyes
In the years following World War I, American laborers attempted to unionize and overcome American capitalism. Though it is never specified which political party the book is about, possible "parties" include the American Communist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World. (This annotation contains an image)
In this text, Steinbeck uses a few colloquialisms-words with meanings specific to the time and region. Use the define feature on the word "slugged" and select the definition that best matches its usage here.
Vagrants, also known as tramps, hobos, and vagabonds, are individuals who wander from place to place and have no settled home. Given what we know about Jim, it seems unlikely that he is a vagrant. What do you think happened?
According to Jim's explanation in this paragraph, which of the following most nearly describes his motivation for joining the Party?
Jim considers whether changing his name would have an effect on his personal identity. This is a common question in literature. What are your thoughts on name and character?
Here's another colloquialism common in Steinbeck's time. Use the define feature, and select the definition that most closely matches the way it is used here.
Here is that word "slugged" again. This time it should be clearer what it means. Double check your work from earlier in the text!
What does this detail reveal about the Party's work?
Revisit this description of Joy's appearance, and consider it with his overall demeanor. Do you think Joy is a fitting name for him?
We can infer that Jim's ability to type is relatively rare. What might this skill reveal about Jim compared to the other men in the Party?
A scab, also known as a strike breaker, is someone who works for a company during a strike. Read Jack London's comments below for an idea of how laborers view scabs to this day. (This annotation contains an image)
View this video on theme before considering the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following emerging themes is not reflected in Joy's speech in this passage?
Use details from the text to compare and contrast Joy and Dick's style when it comes to their work for the party. Which style do you think would be more effective? Why?
Fear and hopelessness were major forces in US politics in the 1930's. View these excerpts from Franklin Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural address to gain a better understanding of the state of American morale during this text. (This annotation contains a link)
Consider the themes of hope and work. Both will play a prominent role in this text. Citing evidence from the text thus far, describe the relationship between hope and work as Jim understands it.
Twenty dollars during the 1930's equates to about $200 dollars today. (This annotation contains an image)
What evidence is there to suggest that Joy is or is not mentally sound? Use evidence from the text to argue for Joy's sanity or insanity.
Crop tramps were men, and sometimes families, who wandered from place to place seeking work as field hands. Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath focuses on a crop tramping family. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Mac's excitement about this seeming setback reveal about his point of view in the text?
Hopping freight trains was a common mode of transportation for all sorts of people during the Great Depression. An estimated 2 million men became hobos, men who lived almost exclusively off of the train lines. (This annotation contains a video)
Using the information in the passage, what inference can be drawn about the men in the ditch beside the track?
"Lodges" were charitable trusts established for the betterment of communities. The Elks Lodge is one such establishment that still exists today. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following truisms most closely reflects Mac's assertion that "a guy that tries to scare you is a guy that can be scared"?
One of the only notable things about Jim so far is his apparent innocence. After viewing this video on foils, continue reading and look for Jim's foil. (This annotation contains a video)
According to Mac, smoking while conducting Party work can make one seem
The taco trucks of their day, lunch wagons were popular spots for cheap meals after most restaurants were already closed. (This annotation contains an image)
The author's use of the word "sniff" in this sentence makes the policeman seem
View the following video and reconsider Al's casual remark. (This annotation contains a video)
Use the define feature and select the definition of "jungle" that most closely matches the way it is used in this passage.
Think back to the video about foils. Here, we see Mac and Jim's energy levels juxtaposed. Watch for more points of contrast between the two.
Which of the following lends a sense of tense anticipation to the camp?
Lack of access to healthcare is just one example of the social injustices casually inflicted on the working men in the Torgas Valley.
Which of the following occurrences provides evidence that Mac might be fabricating his medical background?
While the lean-faced man insists that London is not the men's leader, he certainly carries himself like one already.
Why do the men feel "a kind of joyful excitement" about working in the middle of the night?
Jim is still naive enough to believe everything Mac says to the men to be true.
Using evidence from the text, describe Mac's approach to the labor situations in which he becomes embroiled. What might we reasonably expect to see him do in the coming chapters?
Why does Jim call the old man "Dad?"
Completion of college, and even high school, was extremely rare in the 1930's. Check the following census graph to compare reported college and high school completion rates between the 1940's and 2000's. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes the old man's tone toward the young idealists and radicals?
Crop laborers often owed farms more than they were payed as a result of paying rent and purchasing groceries at the company store. This problem continues in American plants overseas today, as described in the article below. (This annotation contains a link)
Compare and contrast the attitude toward top-fallers expressed in the song lyrics (linked below) and in the old man's words.http://i.imgur.com/CFMBHKU.jpg
Disney, and other American groups, glorified work and labor during the Great Depression. Notice the contrast between the end of a day of work at the camp and in Disney's Snow White. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Dan's use of this simile reveal about his attitude toward Jim?
What do you think of Mac's dismissal of old men? Should experience count for something, or are they too jaded to contribute?
Briefly describe how the diction in this sentence affects the mood of the passage.
The model T is widely considered the first consumer automobile. By the 1920's the model T only cost $260 dollars, or about four months of a laborer's wages. (This annotation contains an image)
Steinbeck grew up during Prohibition, the legal ban of alcohol consumption and sales in the United States. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, three years before this text was published. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following inferences about Dakin is not supported by information in this paragraph?
Given what you know about Prohibition (1919-1933), what do you think was Steinbeck's intent for the drinking in this text? Does he intend for the audience to view the drinking as illicit or social? Describe the textual evidence that leads to your decision.
Dakin doesn't want the details of Mac's background for all of the following reasons except that
Beginning in the 1930's, anti-communist sentiment reached such a fervor that the country took preventative measures that infringed on basic rights, including freedom of speech and demonstration. (This annotation contains an image)
Why are the cotton wages important to the apple pickers?
In Dubious Battle Quiz 1
What does the description of the boy's eyes suggest about his mood and the overall mood among the laborers?
The black mark may be a derivation of the "black spot" in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. It was a curse given to someone about to be deposed or killed. (This annotation contains an image)
Considering evidence from the text, what makes this arrangement so pleasing to Jim?
Jim is picking up methods and tricks he's observed with Mac.
In the context of this novel, the use of "party" in this sentence is an example of which of the following literary devices?
"Comrade" and its translation have been used all over the world by leftist movements seeking an egalitarian form of address.
The man in the overalls was most likely a
Using evidence from the text, describe how Jim has begun to change. Include a description of his character at the beginning and ways we have seen him change since.
This text has so little imagery, that the extended description of the eggs is striking. Take a moment to re-read it. Why do you think Steinbeck dedicated so much space to this imagery?
What does the focus on the ladder suggest about how the men will interpret this accident?
Notice how cold Mac is about the news of Dan's death. We get the impression he cares little for the men he's helping.
Speculate why Steinbeck chose to include Dan in this text. What does Dan's character contribute to the theme and progress of the novel so far?
While today Western Union is largely associated with money transfers, it was originally one of American's largest telecommunication companies, specializing in faxes and telegrams. They even invented the candygram! (This annotation contains an image)
Using the define feature on the word "bulls," determine the definition that most nearly matches its use in this context.
In spite of his warm, disarming way with the men, Mac quickly turns on anybody who stands in his way.
Steinbeck's description of this setting creates an atmosphere that can best be described as
Images and descriptions of dogs become a prominent motif in this novel, especially surrounding Al's father. View the following video on motif to get a clearer picture of what it means. (This annotation contains a video)
What does the state of Mr. Anderson's property suggest about his character?
Again, Mr. Anderson is compared to a dog. Does this seem strange to you, considering other connotations of dogs?
Mac has never given a straight-forward answer to the question of his own motives. Using what you know about Mac, speculate on what motivates him. What does Mac get out of his work with the party?
Here is yet another dog reference. As you spot more of them, think about what it means to be a dog in this story? Are they brave like London? Loyal like Al? Ineffective like the puppy Dan described?
Using the define feature on the word yellow, select the definition that most closely matches its intended meaning in this context.
There have been many references to London's "tonsured" hair. The tonsure is a haircut closely associated with monks and mystics which traditionally entailed shaving the scalp. (This annotation contains an image)
After viewing the following short film about Ghandi and peaceful protest, reconsider Mac--particularly his opposition to using violence in the strike. Compare and contrast Ghandi's ideals described in the video with what we know about Mac's approach to protest.
What does Steinbeck's reincorporation of the dog motif contribute to this moment in the story?
As with the Occupy Wall Street camps of recent years, public health violations were a catch-all for preventing striking men from congregating. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the characterization of Doc Burton thus far suggest about his demeanor in comparison to the other men?
London is using sarcasm, or verbal irony, in this sentence. He says that the superintendent is bringing peace, when the deputies and their guns clearly suggest otherwise. The video below will explain more about irony. Jump to 0:19 for verbal irony. (This annotation contains a video)
Speculate on whether the Party men do or do not care about the men they have committed to serve. Pick a side, and use two or three instances from the text to support your claim.
This seems to be a thinly veiled threat. Mac suggests that if things get worse, the men will be difficult to remove because someone will have to carry them.
Which of the following details from this passage does not contribute to the passage's mood of tension and anxiety?
This line captures an important distinction between the various factions opposing the mainstream American system. Anarchy, communism, and socialism all pushed back at both the "man" and at one another. (This annotation contains an image)
We know that Doc Burton has taken great pains to make this camp pass as sanitary. How does this impression measure up to your standards of sanitation?
What literary devices does Steinbeck employ in his description of the automobiles?
A train-load of scabs in Seattle, 1934 (This annotation contains an image)
Briefly describe why Dakin might be uncomfortable keeping secrets from the men. Do you agree with Dakin's suggestion not to trust them?
Winchester rifles were popular with sports enthusiasts and lawmen until the 1940's. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Mac's speech about language contribute to the theme of the novel?
What do you think of the doctor's assertion that natural dangers to human health and the manifestations of human evil are comparable? Is there any merit to the claim that bacterial infection and human greed should be classified together?
Which of the following historical occurrences is most analogous to Burton's description of group-man?
What does this detail reveal about Mac's expectations for the strike?
Like Abraham Lincoln, Mac knows he cannot win this fight without the general will of the people. (This annotation contains an image)
How did the vigilantes most likely learn about the plan to sneak away and stop the scabs?
Which of the following might the rotten apple illuminated on the ground represent in the context of the novel?
Dakin demonstrated hubris, extreme pride in his own abilities, by venturing out to speak with the vigilantes alone. Who is another character who falls victim to his own hubris?
What does this detail reveal about Dakin?
This is not the first time Mac has referenced his growing dependence on Jim. What do you think will be the result of this increasingly dependent relationship?
What does the word ragged mean in this selection?
How does this procession compare to a parade, procession, or community event in another text? Use examples from the text in your answer.
View the short film on tension below, and consider all the sources and directions of tension in this moment. The scabs and the men, the men and the authorities, Mac and Dakin, the men among themselves, are all at tension with one another, and they can all be felt at this scene by the train tracks. (This annotation contains a video)
Of all the aspects of Mac's character, which stands out most prominently in the dialogue following Joy's death?
Who is right? Should Mac pause to mourn his friend, or should Dakin recognize this opportunity to push the cause farther?
Who stands out as a foil to Mac in the events following Joy's death?
Silence can be a powerful weapon when used en masse. In 1917 the NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois organized a "Silent Parade" in New York City to protest lynching. (This annotation contains an image)
In your own words, explain what Mac means when he insists that they need to "use whatever they can." Who and what else has he used over the course of the text?
Recall the foreshadowing earlier in the text, when Al speculated that the vigilantes might burn his wagon if he helped the Party.
Which of the following best describes Mac's attitude toward the coroner?
Pay during World War I started at about $30 dollars a month for privates. While modest, this is probably more than most of these men have earned since. (This annotation contains an image)
Analyze the speech shown in the clip at the link below and consider how it might be applicable to the situation among the men. What points seem particularly relevant? Furthermore, cite at least one part that does not seem pertinent to the scenario.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SooANfD9sWc
While there is little evidence to suggest this song was ever published, folk songs about the plight of migrant workers were on the rise while Steinbeck was writing. Here is one by Woody Guthrie about crop tramps like London and Dakin. (This annotation contains a video)
Why might Steinbeck choose to add this new breed of character to the plot? What does he reveal about the historical context of the novel?
Whistling was a pretty important skill during the 1930's. It came with bragging rights and a variety of uses. If you want to learn to whistle like the man in the text, check out the link below (just don't practice at school!) (This annotation contains a video)
How does this scene compute with our impressions of Jim up till now? Is it consistent with his character?
Which of the following is not one of Jim's emotional reactions to the scene in the orchard?
We are beginning to get the impression that Mac doesn't want Jim to function in this strike by himself.
Mac's expression most nearly matches which of the following idioms?
Here is another instance of the dog motif, this time with much more ominous connotations.
In Dubious Battle Quiz 2
Which of the following institutions is the most important in collaborating to undermine the strike: the police, the press, the health department, the public. Give evidence from the text to support your answer.
Steinbeck suggests throughout the text that sex plays prominently in Dick's dealings with the sympathizers. This is one of his more explicit references.
How does Steinbeck's representation of Lisa compare and/or contrast to the young mother represented in the photograph linked below? Use details from the text to support your analysis.http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/236x/55/32/74/553274078f571cc1120f77400143e6db.jpg
After viewing the video reviewing the distinction between tone and mood, consider the tone and mood of this paragraph. How does the setting and language contribute to each? (This annotation contains a video)
How does Steinbeck's use of motif help to develop the theme of this text? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
In many ways, Mr. Anderson and Al are like any father and son arguing over the validity and strength of new ideals. Have you had to defend something important to you to your parents?
Whose motivation does Al most nearly echo in this speech?
One of the more notable and controversial facets of communism was denial of religion. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is a theme best represented by Dan's relationship with the younger men?
This presentation has some great information about criminal law enforcement in the 1930's, especially for crimes commonly associated with laboring men. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
Briefly describe how the significance of Joy's name evolves from the beginning to the end of the novel.
In the United States, American flags are traditionally draped over the coffins of fallen soldiers. What do you think of the Party men treating their own like "soldiers"? (This annotation contains an image)
The details in this scene reveal all of the following except that
In spite of Burton's best efforts, it is difficult to imagine receiving medical treatment in a tent. The picture below is a reconstruction of a hospital tent like the one in the text. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following most closely matches the meaning of "decent" as it is used in this sentence?
In spite of her poverty, Lisa attempts to participate in youth culture by using words like "fresh." The 20's and 30's saw the rise of youth culture and the American Teenager as we know them today. (This annotation contains an image)
In spite of Steinbeck's glib treatment of mental illness, he would have known that the 1930's were a horrifying decade for patients classified as "crazy." The presentation below has a few of the "procedures" used to treat and cure mental disease at the time of this text. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
Which of the following details from the passage provides the most evidence for how Jim has changed and learned since joining the party?
For much of history, humans had to be careful about burials in case the "corpse" was still alive.
For many Americans at the time, Moscow represented the hub of communist activity. Anyone suspected of communist ideals was equally suspected of fidelity to Russia rather than the United States. (This annotation contains an image)
View this video to review dramatic irony before you continue reading. Look for the instance of dramatic irony in the following scene. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following pieces from this scene is an example of dramatic irony- a moment when the audience knows something important that the characters do not?
Camp meetings were informal, temporary congregations where a groups of worshippers were often worked into a religious frenzy by the experience and the passion of the speaker. (This annotation contains an image)
The link below is to a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Watch it, and consider how it compares to Mac's "sermon" at the camp. Which of the following elements is not shared by the two speeches?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAYITODNvlM
What is Dick suggesting in this letter when he says "The lady wins"?
This is a rare moment of unbridled joy in this text. Even earlier, the men's joy was described as "terrible." This is also one of the only mentions of children in the book, with the exception of Lisa's baby.
Notice how Steinbeck writes the German man's accent. Why do you think it was important to him to make the man's origins so clear?
Using the "define" function, select the definition of queer that seems most suited to this context.
Share-cropping is a system in which a tenant farms someone else's land, and in exchange the land owner receives a share of the crop. While Steinbeck was writing, it did not yet have the systematized racial implications it took on in the South during the 1960's. (This annotation contains an image)
What effect does Steinbeck's use of personification have on the mood of this scene?
All of the men are technically vagrant "tramps." Paul continues to reserve the gender-specific meaning of tramp to describe women in general.
Why is this line ironic?
I think it is interesting how quick London is to establish that he was elected to lead the men. Why is that so important?
What does Bolter do to build his case with the men? Cite examples from the text. Then state and explain your stance on whether or not Mr. Bolter is "not a very good business man."
The United States celebrated its first Labor Day in honor of American working men in 1882. (This annotation contains an image)
Bloody Thursday was the culmination of a strike of all laborers involved in maritime shipping along the West Coast. On Thursday, July 5, 1934, two picketers were shot by company guards. Like Joy's, their funeral was a public call for unity and action. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following literary devices is used in this line?
To what extent do the men seem poised to rule themselves? Do you think their leaders are enabling them for self rule, or that they are replacing the rule of the land owners? Using evidence from the text, describe how and if Mac, Jim, and/or London seems to be fighting for the men's right to self rule.
Lisa's dream of a cow seems much simpler than the men's dream of a new economic order. Do you think the two dreams are both part of the same thing or counter to one another?
Which of the following historical ideals does this line most closely echo?
This is such a beautiful piece of imagery. Stop and imagine the sound of heartbeats in the air. What does Burton mean?
This is one of the first times anyone has asked Mac about his political leanings with no accusation attached. Do you think it's feasible for London to really not know? Does his question reflect naiveté, loyalty, or something else?
In your own words, summarize Mac's reason(s) for participating in the Party and the strike.
View this painting by Alexander Laureus, "Fire by the Windmill at Night." As you read Steinbeck's description of the fire, consider his tone and use of imagery in comparison with the painting. (This annotation contains an image)
Now, compare Steinbeck's tone and imagery with the painting you saw previously. Use examples from both works. http://www.artexpertswebsite.com/pages/artists/artists_l-z/laureus/Laureus_FireByTheWindmillAtNight....
Take a moment to predict what might have happened to Doc Burton.
Which of the following best explains why Mac responds to Sam the way he does?
Clearly the barn is not on top of Mac. What is he trying to express in this line?
What does Jim's defensive tone reveal about his reaction to Lisa's observation?
Which of the following characters predicted that the men would get out of hand like the crowd Mac describes?
Lynching is a horrifying part of America's history that continued into the 1960's. Perpetrators were rarely brought to justice. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following details from the text do not contribute to the boy's characteristic youth?
Jim is now fully supporting Mac's beating of this boy. Is this the Jim we met at the beginning of the text?
Using evidence from this passage, describe how Jim and his relationship with Mac have changed since the beginning of the novel.
Think about what it means to laugh "mirthlessly." Do you imagine a true villain laugh? A sarcastic laugh? A half-hearted haha?
The Bolsheviks were Marxists who came to power in Russia in the early 20th century and eventually became the communist party of the Soviet Union. They were known for their demanding submission to party rule and authority. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following words best describe Jim's orders?
This is likely a reference to Italian organized crime, which began as early as 1500, came to the United States, and was rampant by the Great Depression. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following themes best reflects Jim's transformation in this chapter?
The press played a huge role in much of the reform of the 19th and 20th centuries. Pulitzer ran a progressive paper called The World that had only just gone out of print in 1931.
Which of the following lines from this paragraph captures the biggest barrier to justice in the valley?
How are the themes of work and purpose developed in this paragraph? Cite the text in your response.
There might be more than pain and infection causing Dan to yell out like a crazy man: broken and fractured hips are commonly associated with dementia!
The reporter uses all of the following rhetorical devices to strengthen his appeal except
The Battle of Bull Run was a prominent Civil War battle. Mac is establishing the extent of his family's time in the United States. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Steinbeck's use of the weather and seasons contribute to the narrative?
We are to understand that Mac served during World War I, when the United State's primary foe was Germany.
The voice Jim heard, and to whom the man is referring, was most likely the voice of
This part of the plot recalls Dan's insistence that men will only turn and tear one another apart.
Why did Steinbeck include Jim's tour of the camp at this point in the narrative?
Here is an example of a painting of the Virgin Mary exuding the type of wisdom and calm that captivated Jim in the camp and at church when he was younger. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following words is not used colloquially in this passage?
For most of the 1930's, gas cost about ten cents per gallon! (This annotation contains an image)
How does Steinbeck use Dan's character to propel the plot? What does Dan contribute to the theme, pace, and mood of the novel as a whole?
Tear gas, high-pressured water, and sheer intimidation have all been common protest-prevention techniques since the early twentieth century.
This line is most likely an example of
The smell is likely necrosis, the death of tissue on an otherwise living organism. Gangrene is an example of necrosis. Without treatment, necrosis can poison the living tissue around it.
Re-visit the painting of Mary and child linked below. Citing evidence from the text and details from the painting, compare Steinbeck's representation of women and motherhood with the portrait. http://paintingandframe.com/uploadpic/il_sassoferrato/big/madonna_and_child.jpg
Notice the shift in description. The mob goes from being described as a group of individuals ("Men stared" and "Women swam") to being described as a singular being ("The eyes flared" and "arms bowed dangerously").
Which of the following details gives you the sense that we are approaching the climax of this novel?
When Mac says that the mob is stronger and different from the men in it, which of the following themes is he illustrating?
This line is interesting because Steinbeck has compared men to dogs throughout this text, yet here he says they are completely different.
Which of the following narratives most closely resembles London attempting to restrain the mob?
"Mob mentality" is a phenomenon studied by social scientists. The idea is that individuals lose their sense of self, and stop following normal rules. This can occur anywhere from political rallies to sports arenas. (This annotation contains an image)
Do you believe Mac and Jim have accomplished anything in the valley? Use evidence from the text to support you answer.
"The third rail" idiom refers to the third rail on subway tracks, which provides the electricity for the train to run. To step on it would result in electrification. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the most likely meaning of "stool-pigeon" in this metaphor?
Which of the following literary devices does London employ in this line?
Which of the following best describes the tone of the opening of this chapter?
Do you notice an important detail missing from the description of the house?
In your own words, explain why Al has submitted himself to his father's anger.
What do you think of Anderson's anger? Was it a predictable consequence, or did Mac take advantage of him?
What does Jim mean when he says he had something "burned" out of him? What was burned?
Look below for an example of a Mack dump-truck from the 1930's. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best paraphrases Mac's reasons for hoping the men will fight?
Notice how leaving the camp is every bit as politically complicated as staying. The distinction between the authorities and the vigilantes, the press and the Party, is blurring together into a net the men can't escape.
Evocative today of old world glamor, finger-waves were a popular hair style during the 1920's and 30's. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Steinbeck include this anecdote in the narrative?
Steinbeck has presented several instances where the men are criticized for talking too much. Why do you think this kind of talking would be different to Jim?
Do you agree that Jim believes in the Party cause to the extent of religious passion? Present evidence from the text to support whether or not Party work is religious to Jim.
In Dubious Battle Quiz 3