In Dubious Battle Character Summaries


Jim Nolan: The main protagonist of the story, Jim is a young man trying to figure out his purpose in life. His parents have passed away and his sister has been missing since she was a teen. Jim has no family ties and does not seem to have any close friends. He has spent time in jail on vagrancy charges. He joins the Party hoping it will give his life purpose and meaning. He is tutored by Mac in field work for most of the story. Jim becomes anxious because he wants to play a more active role in organizing the strike. Even when Mac and Jim are amongst the strikers on Andersons land, Jim feels that he is being underutilized by Mac. Towards the end of the novel, Jim begins to show strong leadership skills. Mac begins to fear and admire Jim. Jim's leadership does not last for long, however, as he is shot down by vigilantes on Anderson's land.

Harry Nilson: Harry enlists Jim into the Party, but not without first warning Jim about the hardships he will encounter for the cause. Harry then assigns Jim to work with Mac, Joy and Dick. After the first chapter, Harry is only mentioned briefly, remaining Mac's contact in town. Of the Party members, Harry provides the most description of the organized hierarchy of the Party.

Mac: Although he denies his leadership role, Mac is perceived to be the leader by Joy, Dick and Jim. Mac takes Jim under his wing to train him in field work. Mac is experienced in leading men to organize strikes. Mac is reluctant to get Jim more involved in the activities of strike as he wants Jim to take his time to learn. Mac is committed to the cause and uses any opportunity to ensure its advancement. He firmly believes that the ends justify the means when it comes to furthering the interests of the Party. He is not above using dead bodies to manipulate the spirits of the strikers in hopes of rekindling their excitement.

Joy: Joy has been beaten down for most of his life and has been jailed many times for voicing his beliefs about the Party. Despite this, Joy is still very committed to the Party cause and is excitable. The others believe head injuries resulting from the many beatings he has taken in jail, often at the hands of authorities, are responsible for his erratic behavior. He is ultimately shot and killed when he arrives in the Torgas Valley with a trainload of scabs. Mac uses his funeral to rally the strikers' spirits, arguing Joy would have appreciated his death being used in such a manner.

Dick: Dick is described as a pretty-boy and is teased by Mac about his flirtatious ways with women. Dick has a gift for blending into mainstream society and uses his good looks and charm to raise money and supplies for the cause from sympathizers.

London: London, like Mac, denies being a leader, though when Jim and Mac first meet London after making their way to the migrant worker campgrounds, they sense that the other men naturally look up to him. However, when put into a formal leadership role, London is often uncomfortable. London has been a migrant worker most of his life and he just wants to be treated fairly as a worker to provide for his family.

Lisa: Lisa is London's daughter-in-law and described as a simple girl. After Mac and Jim help deliver her baby, she is shy around them because they have seen her in an intimate way. She tries to avoid them when possible.

Joey: Joey is London's son and is described as a young boy. During Lisa's delivery, he is panicked and faints. He is rarely seen around the strike camp as he has plans to become a postman.

Dakin: Dakin is a friend of London and works on a separate orchard. He is suspicious of Jim and Mac because he senses they are Party members. Dakin, whose prize possession is his nice truck, considers himself a capitalist and is reluctant to strike, but goes along with it for the higher wages. Dakin is also put into a leadership position by Jim and Mac as they see Dakin as more level-headed than London, who is prone to brutal anger. Dakin ultimately loses control when his truck is set on fire by vigilantes. As a result, he assaults a police officer and ends up in jail.

Burke: Burke, along with London and Dakin, is one of the primary leaders of the strike. Jim, Mac and London do not know him very well and are never sure if he can be trusted. After Dakin ends up in jail, Burke tries to gain full power over the hungry men by accusing London of having food and supplies stocked up in his tent. London is enraged when he discovers this and hits Burke, nearly killing him.

Doc Burton: Doc Burton is a medical doctor who oversees the safety and sanitation of the strikers' camp to ensure that the authorities cannot shut it down for public health reasons. Doc introduces the idea of the group-man and is more interested in observing the behaviors of the group than the cause itself. Doc becomes lonely and disappears. Mac and the others assume Doc was kidnapped by vigilantes.

Al Anderson: Proprietor of Als Lunch Wagon and a Party sympathizer, Al aids Mac and Jim by feeding them and introducing them to his father, Mr. Anderson. Al is later beaten and his business is burned to the ground by vigilantes. Al aspires to join the Party.

Mr. Anderson: Al's father and owner of a private five-acre orchard, Mr. Anderson is convinced by Mac to let the strikers camp out on his orchard in exchange for free labor. Mr. Anderson is skeptical and does not want to irritate the landowners that own most of the assets in town, but goes along with Macs plan in hopes that he will benefit from having his orchard picked while his neighbors apples rot. Mr. Anderson soon becomes angered with Mac and the strikers when Al is assaulted. Mr. Anderson's barn is later set on fire along with his whole apple crop.

Hunter, Gillray and Martin: The three landowners who own not only the three largest orchards in Torgas Valley, but also most of the town's assets. They seem to control the police force as well.

Sam: A friend of London who takes on the role of London's right hand during the strike, Sam is impulsive and passionate, which becomes a dangerous combination after Mr. Anderson's barn is torched. He sets out to burn Hunter's barn in retaliation.

Dan: A seventy-one year old migrant worker, Dan prides himself on his work and his former position as a top-faller. He challenges Jim when Jim suggests he should apply for charity. He appreciates the benefits received from labor agitation, but is very suspicious of organized labor parties. Dan is severely injured when he falls while trying to climb down a rickety ladder. Jim and Mac use the workers' resulting indignation to incite the strike. Dan is flattered at first when his injury brings him attention but he is soon forgotten by the workers. He weakens drastically after Doc Burton goes missing and is no longer there to tend to him.

Mr. Bolter: A new president of the Growers Association, Bolter attempts to broker a negotiation with London to end the strike, but his offer is vehemently turned down by London. He counters the rejection by threatening the use of mass force to end the strike.

Ms. Meer: Jim's landlady, she is only seen briefly in the first chapter when Jim packs up his belongings and gives her his notice. She seems to like Jim and wants to help him out. She is the last contact Jim has in his pre-Party life.