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In Dubious Battle

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  6,132 ratings  ·  377 reviews
This 1936 novel—set in the California apple country—portrays a strike by migrant workers that metamorphoses from principled defiance into blind fanaticism.
Paperback, Penguin Classic, 304 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1936)
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East of Eden by John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckCannery Row by John SteinbeckThe Pearl by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
13th out of 41 books — 160 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
100 Best American Authors
138th out of 503 books — 424 voters

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Community Reviews

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Writing novels about the poor and dispossessed in 1930s California and in the process attracting the wrath of farmers’ organisations and the attention of the FBI gave John Steinbeck a reputation which has persisted to this day. Many people assume that he was a communist, or at the very least a socialist. This novel, along with The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men is a work which cemented Steinbeck’s reputation in that regard.

However, the characterization of Steinbeck’s politics as socialist
[Editor: For unexpressed reasons, the author of this review has requested with utmost fervency that the reader watch this YouTube video before continuing to read and then imagine its main subject, Dr. Steve Brule, reading the body of the review aloud as a monologue.]

This was a very good book. It displays all the hallmarks of Steinbeck's greatest writing: wonderful dialogue and characterization, heartbreaking turns of plot, and the permeating sense of optimistic pessimism*.

The problem that this
Having set myself a challenge of reading at least one Steinbeck book per month, I decided to tackle 'In Dubious Battle' this month due to interest within the Goodreads Ireland group to enjoy it as a Buddy Read.

Published in 1936. 'In Dubious Battle' was Steinbeck's first novel after his breakthrough 'Tortilla Flat'. However, while this breakthrough was a relatively easy going book, very much in keeping with the future classic 'Cannery Row', 'In Dubious Battle' tackles more serious subject matter,
This is my first review on Goodreads. Back in PBT days (circa 2004), I used to write little snippet reviews for every book I read but since I started using GR last summer, I've been so impressed by the high caliber of Quinten's reviews that I've been too intimidated to write my own. And lazy. But I'm going to start anyway.

In Dubious Battle completes my run of all of the Steinbeck books at the Central Library, and certainly ends it on a high note. When I first added this book as "to-read," I was
Susan Johnson
4.5 stars

Steinbeck writes another memorable novel that I had neither read or heard of before which says a lot for my ignorance of an author who writes about places in my back yard. I had read "Grapes of Wrath" and "Mice and Men" in school and then never thought of him until Oprah made "East of Eden" a book club selection and I fell in love with Steinbeck.

This novel takes place in the 1930's in the Central Valley of Calif. and concerns a strike among fruit pickers for more money. Although the s
This book is a fantastic read and a aurprise as even though it continues upon many of Steinbeck's themes in 1930s America, it introduces radical trade unionism and politics. All centred around California and apple picking and how the workers were low paid and downtrodden, while the owners rich and set apart from the workers. Where a strike spirals out of control and how a principaled strike can rapidly spiral out of control.

The book is like all Steinbeck's work - well written with beautiful imag
This is the first Steinbeck I've read. I managed to avoid reading most American and British classic lit during high school and college. While this isn't Steinbeck's best known work, it should rank among his best. He tells the story of a labor dispute in an agricultural community in California. This novel was written in the 1930's and the Great Depression had it's hold over the US until the late 1930's and in some places into the 1940's. Agricultural workers at the time were white men who lived o ...more
This hasn't been my favorite Steinbeck book.

I read it for one of my English classes this semester, and I think the subject matter of the class ("Race, Ethnicity, Gender in American Lit. and Film") definitely influenced my perspective when reading this novel. I grew annoyed with the lifelessness of the female characters in the story--when they ARE presented, they're dull, one-dimensional mothers or daughters or caretakers, and it's just so unoriginal. Because the story takes place during the Ind
Don Stanton
Timing is everything, or so it seems. I read this book long ago and I feel about it the same now as I did then, except then I didn't know how how express it. So Looking back I See JS as

Iconic American author Check
Nobel Prize winner Check
Failed as a labor Check
Quasi Recluse Check
Depression era writer Check
Proletariat Check
Socialist Check
Communist Possibly
outlook: Big Guy Wins
Little guys looses Check
Like USSR policies Check
Depressing as Hell Double Check
Alcoholic Check
Defeatist Check

My conclusi
There is not a Steinbeck novel I don't like, but In Dubious Battle has stayed with me the longest. This novel is also the one that Steinbeck fans often "forget" about. Its tale of the struggles between a party organizer and the agricultural "system" doesn't fit well with reader's depiction of good and bad sides. While Steinbeck identifies with the worker and the union organizers, he also recognizes the fact that each side manipulates and sacrifices often in a cynical way. Much of the novel relat ...more
I did not read Steinbeck's novel about an attempt to organize migrant workers as part of My Big Fat Reading Project because it was published before 1940, the year I chose for the beginning of my project. I read it now for a reading group and must say, it is a much better book than The Grapes of Wrath.

All of the qualities I love best about Steinbeck are here. Great complex characters, description that brings the locations and the weather and the events to life, and a thoughtful look at a big hum
I have been a lifelong fan of author John Steinbeck, but it wasn’t until I went back to the university as a mature adult that I first read IN DUBIOUS BATTLE. Published in 1936, before THE GRAPES OF WRATH, it is not one of Steinbeck’s better known novels, but I believe it is definitely one of his strongest. As a piece of literature, IN DUBIOUS BATTLE is a multi-layered story of Jim Nolan, who joins “the party” in farm country, California. The party is not identified but assumed to be the American ...more
I thought this book would be too propagandistic at first, but once Steinbeck moved away from the city into the orchards and the midst of the strike, I, like the migrant workers, was swept up in the action. A few scenes do scream of talking heads, mouthpieces, and forced symbolism - no one's wrong when they call this the forerunner to Grapes of Wrath, rather than its equal- but it's still incredibly exciting and compelling journalism. And what it lacks in GoW's scope and artistry, it makes up for ...more
Emma Flanagan
I debated long and hard what rating to give this book. On the one hand it is well written. Steinbeck is a master at encapsulating a time and place. On the other hand it never really captivated me.

I had never read any Steinbeck before. In Dubious Battle may not have been the best to start with. If you enjoy Steinbeck you'll probably this book. If you've never read any Steinbeck maybe start somewhere else.
Steinbeck is in good form with this novel, covering the struggle of orchard workers against a rich farmer, giving his usual eloquent description and engrossing characters. I don't hear this one being mentioned too often of Steinbeck's works, which is a shame.
Punk Johnny Cash
In Dubious Battle drew me in. I was lost in this book. I consider myself a 'red' and that is exactly what this book is about. It is a good look at radical labor organizing in the early 20th century. Some of it is idealized but it is fun to read. It was a sort of leftist fantasy in that respect.

In light of the current left the book is lacking in certain areas of social consciousness with issues of gender or race. Where it stands strong is in it's criticism of capitalism and it's pro-union ideolo
I haven't taken on Steinbeck since high school, so it was interesting to see him through adult eyes. I like his journalistic style, his ability to capture an authentic voice and strong sense of place, and how pretty much all of the story was narrated through dialogue.

I like the ethical nuances of the party members. The farmers they fought were clearly greedy, corrupt, and cruel, but it is also quite clear that while Mac and Jim care about issues facing the working class, and make deep personal s
Aaron Arnold
As a straightforward novel about striking apple pickers, this is a good look at the mechanics of strikes and yet another good look from Steinbeck at the psychology of people placed in nearly impossible situations. The book follows Jim, the son of a famous Communist Party fighter, and his own journey from just another unemployed worker to Party organizer himself. He joins fellow Party men Mac and London in the fictional Torgas Valley and its fight against exploitative farm owners. Steinbeck uses ...more
Similar in subject and style to The Grapes of Wrath, characterized by a conversation-driven sequence of short scenes over a short span of time. Muscular, brief plot, unfolding the story of a handful of men and the gritty mess of virulent idealism mixed with hand-to-mouth needfulness. Leaders and the men who follow in a time of gut-wrenching crisis. Curiously, Steinbeck again portrays human sexuality as a kind of flitting natural urge that comes and goes in a man, and seems best satisfied in occa ...more
Barry Taft
Steinbeck's novel illustrates the struggles of apple pickers in central California in the 1930's to organize a strike after a devastating pay cut threatens their livelihoods. The events are seen through the eyes of an impressionable newcomer who has fallen under the tutelage of a savvy, older organizer who deftly manipulates the situation to suit his "Red" ideology. The crisp, almost Hemingway-esque dialogue of gritty characters evokes an early film noir style, but much of the events depicted co ...more
Guy Portman
In Dubious Battle is a politically engaged novel that was, at the time of its publication at the height of the 1930’s Depression, highly controversial. The book follows Jim Nolan, a young man from poverty stricken circumstances, who is disillusioned with a system that he perceives as unjust, in which his father fought a losing battle for justice all his life, while his mother futilely sought salvation in a God that does not exist. Joining a group of communists determined to bring about a new wor ...more
Jerome Peterson
“In Dubious Battle” by John Steinbeck

‘“In Dubious Battle” is John Steinbeck’s impassioned novel of man’s struggle against injustice during the years of the great Depression. Written just before “The Grapes of Wrath”, it tells the story of the violent revolt of the fruit pickers in California. A tale of bitterness and class hatred, it is filled with Steinbeck’s deep sympathy for the hopes and dreams of the oppressed and exploited.’

The dialog and narrative are written with concise sharpness; almos
In Dubious Battle is the Anti-Ayn story--the opposite of Atlas Shrugged. This is a story of an apple picker's strike taking place in a California Valley, told from the perspective of two outside communist agitators who come along to facilitate the action.

*spoiler alert* The parallels between war and strike actions are evident from the start. Even the strategies employed are military--siege, barricade, propaganda and spying are all a part of the strikes. Mac, one of the main characters, makes it
Interesting read on how people take advantage of those who work for them, and how Mac and Jim, in spite of their 'communist' leanings, care more for the workers than they do for themselves... While the characters in the story appear to be pawns on a chessboard, the underlying current is that they are being denied of their rights, and they decide to fight, leading to a series of events that lead to a strike. The people and their characters shine brightly in this context, because they end up fight ...more
I would be hard pressed to dislike anything that Steinbeck has written. This was another ... though lesser known ... classic. Written in much the same spirit as The Grapes of Wrath, the story evolves around migrant farm workers who decide to go out on strike, and picket the fields. As you can imagine, the situation turns violent. And before the story is through, you glimpse the seamy side of human nature, and its ability to justify injustice for the sake of self interest, no matter whose side yo ...more
Paul Gibson
I first read this book in the late 70's. What can I say about an author who invites you to climb inside the head's of diverse human beings while patiently watching you berate yourself for believing they were mere characters in a book.
Steinbeck lovingly forgives you as well as all within the story because neither you nor he are characters untouched either.
You don't just read books like this and The Wayward Bus; you are given the opportunity to live inside these books.
Books like these made me as
Michael Mckay

In dubious battle is a book written by John Steinbeck in the 1930s about migrant farm workers. These workers face many tough situations, like having to work picking fruit for a less than a livable wage. This payment issue creates an outburst of fruit pickers looking for a fight. They decide to create a riot to make the unnoticed seen. Stuck in the middle of this riot is Jim Nolan; the main character. Jim is also a fruit picker who wants to make his mark on the movement, but finds himself more i
Quello che lascia senza fiato la potenza e l'attualit di questo romanzo che nonostante affondi le proprie radici in pieno New Deal potrebbe benissimo essere stato scritto in un'epoca molto pi recente.
Dopo alcune letture che mi avevano lasciata pi freddina, qui riconosco il vero Steinbeck, quello che ho iniziato ad amare con Furore e Vicolo Cannery; quello che riesce a tirar fuori dai suoi personaggi tutta l'umanit e tutta la rabbia che secoli di privazioni e soprusi hanno accumulato e covato so
Kevin Cecil
This early Steinbeck novel follows an attempted unionization of apple pickers after their wages are slashed. While obviously sympathetic to unions, Steinbeck critiques the bald opportunism of the "Reds" without creating a false equivalency between the strike leaders and the company thugs. The narrative centers around Jim who has just joined the "Party" and shows great promise for organization and strategy. As Jim's dedication increases, his individualism starts to fade away. Like the other Party ...more
„В неравна борба” (1936) е първият от поредицата Калифорнийски романи на Джон Стайнбек, последван от „За мишките и хората” (1937) и „Гроздовете на гнева” (1938). През 2001 г. е преиздаден е у нас от „Диамант” по превода на Н. Антов от 1947 г. за Библиотека „Знаменити романи”.

Преводът, макар и неосъвременен (останали са някои странни сега думички като "клонове" вместо "клони"), е чудесен - за разлика от корицата на Studio MTStyle, в която няма никакъв стил. Абсолютно неадекватният й кич подсказв
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Goodreads Ireland: Buddy Read of In Dubious Battle 89 38 Jul 01, 2014 07:45AM  
Literary Devices in the novel In Dubious Battle 3 18 Sep 26, 2013 10:43PM  
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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley
More about John Steinbeck...
Of Mice and Men The Grapes of Wrath East of Eden The Pearl Cannery Row

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“Out of all this struggle a good thing is going to grow. That makes it worthwhile.” 11 likes
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