“A fascinating and unrelenting story of a Depression-era strike where nothing is as black and white as people are wont to believe. Steinbeck colors the story with a thousand shades of gray even though the reader’s point of view revolves around two Communist characters and their leadership role in the struggle. While their motivations may be more “just” in fighting for the fruit pickers, their actions are as manipulative and cynical of the workers and sympathizers as the property owners in the story. Steinbeck doesn’t shy away from presenting the workers in a realistic light also. Instead of being motivated by ideals or political movements, they are more concerned with how they will find work and feed their families. At times, they show strength and dignity but they are also shown to be lazy, weak, and base in their desires. Perhaps the most compelling (and ambiguous) character in the novel is the Doc who is willing to work tirelessly at the workers camp though he appears to have no belief in the cause or concern for the outcome outside of helping the fruit pickers live with some dignity. The resulting “dubious battle” is compelling and realistic (based on true life strike accounts from the era that I’ve read about).
Overall, a very thought provoking and engaging book that forces the reader to come to their own conclusions instead of being led by the nose.
Pescado wrote this review Friday, January 15, 2010.