Week Seven


 This is probably the location Steinbeck had in mind.


November 1: John Steinbeck. In Dubious Battle.

November 3: John Steinbeck. In Dubious Battle

Please read Chaper 14 from The Log of the Sea of Cortez. Blackboard

Interesting Questions

Here is a letter Steinbeck wrote about In Dubious Battle.

To George Albee [Pacific Grove] January 15 [1935] This is the first time I have felt that I could take the time to write and also that I had anything to say to anything except my manuscript book. You remember that I had an idea that I was going to write the autobiography of a Communist. then Miss McIntosh suggested that I reduce it to fiction. There lay the trouble. I had planned to write a journalistic account of a strike. But as I thought of it as fiction the thing got bigger and bigger. It couldn't be that. I've been living with this thing for some time now. I don't know how much I have got over, but I have used a small strike in an orchard valley as the symbol of man's eternal, bitter warfare with himself.

I'm not interested in strike as means of raising men's wages, and I'm not interested in ranting about justice and oppression, mere outcroppings which indicate the condition. But man hates something in himself. He has been able to defeat every natural obstacle but himself he cannot win over unless he kills every individual. And this self-hate which goes so closely in hand with self-love is what I wrote about. The book is brutal. I wanted to be merely a recording consciousness, judging nothing, simply putting down the thing. I think it has the thrust, almost crazy, that mobs have. It is written in disorder.

In the God [To a God Unknown] I strove for a serene movement like the movement of the year and the turn of the seasons, in this I wanted to get over unrest and irritation and slow sullen movement breaking out now and then in fierce eruptions. And so I have used a jerky method. I ended the book in the middle of a sentence. There is a cycle in the life of man but there is no ending in the life of Man. I tried to indicate this by stopping on a high point, leaving out any conclusion.

The book is disorder, but if it should ever come to you to read, listen to your own thoughts when you finish it and see if you don't find in it a terrible order, a frightful kind of movement. The talk, and the book is about eighty percent dialogue, is what is usually called vulgar. I have worked along with working stiffs and I have rarely heard a sentence that had not some bit of profanity in it. And in books I am sick of the noble working man talking very like a junior college professor. I don't know what will become of this book. It may be too harsh for anyone to buy. It is not controversial enough to draw the support of either the labor or the capital side although either may draw controversial conclusions from it, I suppose. It will take about a month to whip it into shape for sending. If you see Miss McIntosh will you tell her [Mavis McIntosh, Steinbeck's literary agent] ? I should have it off by the fifteenth of February.

It is called In Dubious Battle from the lines in the first part of the argument of Paradise Lost:

Innumerable force of Spirits armed,

That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,

His utmost power with adverse power opposed

In Dubious Battle on the plains of Heaven,

And shook His throne. What though the field be lost?

All is not lost -- the unconquerable will,

And study of revenge, immortal hate,

And courage never to submit or yield:

And what is else not to be overcome?