(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Around the sardine factories of Cannery Row in Monterey, California, lived those who worked only when they had to, preferring to talk, fight, drink, and be lazy. These are the characters of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, who have been compared to the rogues depicted in English artist William Hogarth’s engravings and in the picaresque novels of the eighteenth century.

Monterey is only a whisper away from Pacific Grove, where Steinbeck and his first wife lived in the early 1930’s. The two worlds, however, are continents apart ideologically. Pacific Grove developed as a Methodist campground. One could not buy liquor there, and the sidewalks were deserted not long after sunset. Three miles away, Monterey’s bars stayed open almost until dawn. The population of each town was distinct, although the communities were virtually adjacent.

Mack presides over a band of derelicts who live from one drink to the next, one fight to the next, and one day to the next. If earlier picaros lived their irresponsible lives in ways that advanced them socially and economically, Mack’s boys do not. Their progress is strictly horizontal. They live by bartering, borrowing, stealing, and conning Lee Chong, the Chinese merchant. They are the street people of an earlier age, although some of them have shacks to retreat into when they must. One of them, Malloy, lives sometimes in a huge boiler that his wife has decorated with chintz curtains.


(The entire section is 486 words.)

Cannery Row Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

InCannery Row, John Steinbeck depicts the precarious survival of a heterogeneous human community in the cannery section of Monterey, California. In emphasizing alternative values to capitalistic greed as the basis for that survival, Steinbeck implies that the only means by which peaceful amalgamation of diverse economic, cultural, and gender groups can occur is through community.

The diversity of Cannery Row is represented by Lee Chong, the Chinese grocer; by the varied group of European American young men, led by Mack, who maintain the Palace Flophouse; by Dora and her girls, prostitutes at the Bear Flag Restaurant; and by Doc, the scientist owner of Western Biological Laboratory. The novel’s rather simple plot concerns efforts to give a surprise birthday party for Doc, the cohesive force within this community. The problems but eventual success of these efforts clarify the alternative values allowing the peaceful transcendence of differences.

The characters in the novel constitute a genuine community because they defy the capitalistic greed and exploitation of Cannery Row. Mack and his friends refuse to work in the canneries except intermittently, and only when there is a specific, emotionally worthwhile objective. Thus, they get jobs in order to acquire enough money for Doc’s party, but quit immediately afterward. Doc says of the group, “They could ruin their lives and get money. . . . They just know the nature of...

(The entire section is 475 words.)

Cannery Row Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In 1930’s Monterey, California, sits an abandoned structure near the noisy, smelly sardine factories and wharves that line the Cannery Row neighborhood along the Pacific Ocean waterfront. A good-natured vagrant named Mack, the leader of a gang of vagabonds who inhabit the structure and have named it the Palace Flophouse and Grill, persuades the men to give a party for Doc. Doc is a friendly marine biologist who operates the Western Biological Laboratory, a modest scientific enterprise.

Mack and his gang have no money for the proposed party for Doc, so they hatch a plan to gather the necessary resources. After first considering getting jobs, they unanimously dismiss that idea in favor of a more subtle plan that involves doing a supposed favor for Doc. Under Mack’s leadership, the gang devises a scheme to approach Doc and offer its services in a frog-gathering operation. They would go into the countryside, collect as many frogs as possible, and then sell the amphibians to Doc at five cents each so he can embalm and retail them later as biological specimens. Lacking transportation, the men haggle out a deal with Lee Chong, a local grocer who is also their landlord, to borrow a dilapidated truck on the condition that they restore it into working order. After discussing the details with Chong, the men repair the truck and embark on a madcap frog-hunting expedition that forms one of the most amusing episodes in the novel.

Despite getting drunk along the way, trespassing on private property, and stealing wayward chickens from local ranchers, the gang succeeds in catching hundreds of frogs, an event that they mark as one of the most successful frog-catching expeditions in all history. The gang then returns in mock triumph to Cannery Row to celebrate their victory, yet they still lack the funds to throw their intended celebration. After approaching Chong, Mack works out another scheme in which he sells frogs to Chong as currency.

Many of the individuals who inhabit the Row have tragicomic stories. The debt-ridden Horace Abbeville commits suicide after deeding the building that eventually became Chong’s grocery. Mr. and Mrs. Sam Malloy live destitute in an abandoned boiler that...

(The entire section is 904 words.)

Cannery Row Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Cannery Row is a sentimental, nostalgic portrayal of the lazy, the shiftless, the good-natured lowlifes who survive at the fringes of a fishing and canning community outside Monterey, California. Working only when they must, preferring drinking, fighting, and indolence, “the boys” of Cannery Row are somewhat akin to the old picaresque heroes of the seventeenth and eighteenth century novel. The picaro of these early novels was something of a rogue who lived by his or her wits, and who, despite poverty and social ostracism, displayed a basic goodness and a sense of practical wisdom.

Like their picaro predecessors, Mack and the boys have little or no money; they live off the vagaries of chance and opportunity; they engage in low-key bargaining with tightfisted Lee Chong, owner of the Row’s grocery store; some of them occasionally land in jail. They are not above working when they absolutely have to, but more often than not they borrow, barter, or somehow “find” what they need. Indeed, the essential difference between the picaro and Steinbeck’s modern rascals is that the latter lack a sense of purpose or ambition. Where a Lazarillo de Tormes or a Moll Flanders proceeds from one adventure to another in a purposeful, strategic direction, from less to more, from outsider to member of the establishment, Mack and his fellows simply drift, taking one day at a time, indifferent to the possibilities of their own social reformation, of the progress from dereliction to responsibility.

The plot of Cannery Row reflects this drift, this flaccid indifference to significant social action. It centers on the boys’ only goal—that of giving Doc a party. A marine...

(The entire section is 695 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter Summaries

Cannery Row Chapter 1 Summary

Steinbeck's novel opens with a poetic description of a town that most people probably would not associate with the poetic ideal. Canneries, by their nature, are smelly places, usually inhabited by the lower classes, men and women of multiple ages and ethnicities, who struggle day-to-day. But Steinbeck sees past the hard work, squalid conditions, and difficult lives. To the author, Cannery Row is not only "a stink" and a "grating noise" but also a "quality of light" and "a dream." Throughout the work, reality and dream will play yin and yang to its denizens: among them are Mack and the boys, who inhabit the Palace Flop House; Lee Chong, who runs the areas only grocery and general supply store; Dora and her "girls" who tend the local...

(The entire section is 681 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 2 Summary

Chapter 2 begins in a mythical, dream-like tone and continues Steinbeck's give-and-take theme. "The word is a symbol," Steinbeck says. Words are of course only symbolic. The word "tree" is not a tree; the word "factory" holds nothing more than the sum of its letters. But "things" have to have names; they must have a "word" to communicate. Words and things are separate but intertwined.

In the same way, people are more than one thing. The author asks that Lee Chong be considered as "more than a Chinese grocer." He is "spinning in orbit," connecting worlds, his own and his past. As readers, we observe another Lee Chong, a man who goes to China Point in California, digs up the dried and yellowed bones of one of his...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 3 Summary

Chapter 3 begins with a map of how Cannery Row is organized. To the right of the "vacant" lot (inaptly named because it is filled with non-working appliances, timber, and other junk) is Lee Chong's grocery. Behind the lot and across the set of railroad tracks is the Palace Flophouse. To the left of the lot is Dora Flood's whorehouse.

"The Bear Flag" may be technically illegal but it is far from an eye-sore. Dora's house is clean and well-managed. Dora has been in the business for an astonishing fifty years, first as a working girl and then as a madam. She maintains her business by being tactful and honest, but perhaps most importantly, by maintaining a "certain realism." That realism is that human beings...

(The entire section is 471 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 4 Summary

The weaving in and out of the world of work and the realm of myth heralds the beginning of Chapter 4. Dusk is a time of transition, not only from day to night but from reality to magic. The magic is not limited to the spells and incantations of Western lore, however. The Bay Area of San Francisco has been a home to Chinese immigrants since the late 1850s when work was plentiful due to the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad and the California Gold Rush. With those thousands of immigrants came Eastern folktales and Eastern magic.

So when a mysterious, elderly Chinese man began to walk through the vacant lot of Cannery Row, it was not as startling as one might expect. The man was dressed in a straw hat and denim,...

(The entire section is 599 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 5 Summary

Doc's laboratory, Western Biological, faces the empty lot; on the right is Lee Chong's grocery and on the left, Dora's Bear Flag Restaurant. Doc's laboratory is full of the strange and unexpected. There are all manner of sea creatures: sponges, stars, anemones, worms, and many varieties of shrimps. In addition to sea life, there are also land-dwelling animals: rats and snakes, bees and Gila monsters, cats and frogs. In this list of collections, not truly made much more distinct than the other specimens, are the "little unborn humans, some whole, others sliced thin and mounted on slides." Doc does not make any great differentiation between one life form to be studied and any other.

The laboratory has a basement: this is...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 6 Summary

Chapter 6 finds Doc on a collecting expedition. Located on the "tip of the Peninsula," the Great Tide Pool is a marvelous spot for gathering specimens. When the tide goes out, the sea floor reveals its formerly hidden bounty: crabs, starfish, mussels, snails, eels, and others all scurry about looking for cover or for an easy meal.

The reality of nature is not sugar-coated nor is it studied without judgment. An octopus is described as a "creeping murderer" with "evil goat eyes" who attacks his prey "Coldly...ferociously...savagely." The world of the sea is no more kind or cruel than the world of men, it seems. Here on "life and riches...death and digestion...decay and birth, burden the air."

Doc is not...

(The entire section is 640 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 7 Summary

Chapter 7 begins with a history of the evolution of the Palace Flophouse. When Mack and the boys first moved in, they had not thought of their space as anything more than a shelter from the elements. They did not love it yet. The room as long and bare, lit only by two small windows. The unpainted walls were made of wood; the space still smelled of its former occupant: fish meal.

Mack, the unelected yet undisputed leader of the boys, knew that this collection of men must have something to call their own; some privacy, or at least personal space, must be awarded to each resident in order to maintain the peace. To that end, Mack marked out five oblong spaces on the floor with chalk. In each seven by four foot square, Mack...

(The entire section is 677 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 8 Summary

Chapter 8 introduces two new characters: Mr. and Mrs. Sam Malloy, the most recent residents of the vacant lot.

Three years prior to their arrival, the boiler at the Hediondo Cannery blew up for the third and final time. The owners decided it would be cheaper to just invest in a new one than try to repair the old one yet again. The troublesome old boiler was moved to the vacant lot. There it sat, between Lee Chong's and the Bear Flag. Rust grew around it but sweet smelling plants did as well, wild anise and the white bell flowers from a datura tree.

The boiler was about the size and shape of a railroad car, minus the wheels. And into this now dry and safe space moved Mr. and Mrs. Malloy. They had to crawl...

(The entire section is 444 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 9 Summary

Chapter 9 begins with Hazel and Doc's return from their collecting trip in the Great Tide Pool at the tip of the Peninsula. Mack and the boys watch from their perches at the Palace Flophouse as Hazel unloads the sacks of starfish from Doc's truck and carries them into the laboratory. They continue to watch as Hazel, jeans still wet in places and salt crusting in others where they were drying, makes his way up the hill and home.

Mack, trying to sound out Doc's state of mind in order to gauge the timing of implementing his plan, inquires about Doc's mood. Hazel says he is happy because they caught the number of starfish required to fulfill Doc's order. This is welcome news to Mack, who, after some mulling, decides it...

(The entire section is 451 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 10 Summary

Chapter 10 introduces Frankie, a young boy of eleven, who, like several of the characters in the novel, comes in and out of the narrative. Frankie, it is soon learned, is relatively homeless. He shows up one day on Doc's property. At first, he just peeps in the basement's windows. Eventually, he becomes brave enough to stand inside its door. A few days later, he makes his way into the basement.

Frankie is dirty and unkempt. It is obvious no one cares or looks after the boy. It takes him three weeks to make his way from looking in the windows of Western Biological before he works up the nerve to approach Doc at his workbench and even then he is "ready to bolt" at the slightest provocation, like a feral cat.


(The entire section is 688 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 11 Summary

Chapter 11 begins with a history of Lee Chong's ancient Model T. In 1923, the vehicle had belonged to a doctor, who pampered the truck for five years. It was sold in mint condition to an insurance man, who drove it hard and drove it drunk. Eventually, the battered truck was passed to a new owner in a deplorable state. The new owner cut it up in order to add a new truck bed. The truck's next owner was not good at managing his money and traded it to Lee Chong to pay off his tab. It needed lots of work, which Lee did not do, so it sat deteriorating in his lot behind the store until Gay came to fix it.

Gay is an "inspired mechanic" and soon is able to pinpoint the exact problems that needs to be attended to in order for...

(The entire section is 560 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 12 Summary

Chapter 12 is a diversion from the main plot, one of the frequent sidesteps into the vortex of life that makes up the working-class town of Cannery Row. Perhaps because fame is hard to come by in the blue-collar environment, anyone with any modicum of fame who has stayed in Monterey or passed through is afforded special star status.

In the days before television and only a few years into modern radio broadcasts, authors were still considered a sort of royalty. Monterey's most touted former resident was Robert Louis Stevenson, and it was observed by many and with great pleasure that his geological descriptions in Treasure Island bore a good deal of resemblance to Point Lobos, California.

Over the...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 13 Summary

Chapter 13 returns to the plight of Mack and the boys, minus Gay, who went out to find a carburetor for the broken down Model T and failed to return. Eddie had also gone for a spell, but unlike Gay, made it back. He had noticed a construction site not far away and went to see whether perhaps he could find (or steal) a part there. He managed to acquire one. Mack, Hazel, and Jones were asleep when he returned and did not awaken. Eddie caught some sleep himself.

Mack is the first to get up in the morning and the other boys soon are up as well. They eat the bread while Eddie gets the new part installed. Soon, they are on their way again to look for promising pools in which to collect frogs.

As they travel,...

(The entire section is 671 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 14 Summary

Steinbeck has already introduced the early morning hours on Cannery Row as a time for magic in Chapter 4, and he returns to the premise in Chapter 14. While the earlier chapter revolved primarily upon the mystical Chinaman with the flopping shoe, in this section, the magic belongs to everyone.

The "silvery light" of dawn is the conduit for the mystery and magic. It is a time of peace and a time of rest before the busy workday begins. The hustle that will come once the sun has fully risen has not happened, neither for man nor for beast. Cats slither about unbothered by human activity, not yet on their daytime guard. Dogs roam around and mark territory. Seagulls perch and wait for the day's bounty that will come forth...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 15 Summary

Chapter 15 returns to Mack, the boys, the landowner, and his dog. The boys have left their campsite and gone up the hill to the farmhouse, where Mack is in the kitchen preparing the Epsom salt poultice for the injured dog's shoulder. As he works, the dog's numerous puppies fight for dominance at her teats for milk. The poor dog wearily looks to Mack, her eyes conveying her weariness and seeming to seek his empathy.

The owner watches Mack, grateful to learn how to treat a tick bite. Mack tells him that in addition to healing her shoulder, the owner also needs to get her puppies weaned; they are too old to still be nursing, and the effort to continue providing milk to them is dangerously wearing the mother down.


(The entire section is 539 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 16 Summary

In March, Cannery Row experiences a huge fishing boon. The canneries are operating at full capacity and hiring anyone who wants a job. Business is booming for Dora at the Bear Flag as well, but she has more than she can handle, especially since some of her girls are indisposed: Eva is away on vacation; Phyllis Mae suffered a broken leg in a fall at an amusement park; and Elsie, a good Catholic girl, is away on a religious pilgrimage. It is all a headache for the madam, who must deal with the newcomers as well as make sure her regular customers are taken care of.

The happiness over the bounty of work and money is tempered, however, by a massive influenza outbreak. Schools close down and there is not a single family on...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 17 Summary

Chapter 17, for the first time in the novel, is devoted solely to Doc.

Although he is constantly surrounded by people, Doc usually prefers to be alone. Mack may be the only one who notices the scientist is a "lonely and set-apart" man, but it is true. Even on the frequent occasions when Doc has a woman in his laboratory, he appears, to Mack at least, to be lonely.

Although Doc occasionally takes someone on his collecting expeditions, most of the time, he spends his time alone, crawling over boulders and turning over rocks. Doc has been a marine biologist for a long time. He knows not only when the tides come in and go out but also when certain tides are likely to provide the greatest bounty. When one of...

(The entire section is 705 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 18 Summary

Chapter 18 finds Doc still making his way to the La Jolla beach for his octopi-collecting mission. It is late in the afternoon and he has made it as far as Ventura, but time is beginning to become more of a factor. He has only time enough for a bathroom break and a quick cheese sandwich when he stops in Carpenteria. It is dark by the time he arrives in Los Angeles, but he has a full dinner there, refills his thermos, and stocks up on sandwiches and beer.

Night driving is not as interesting to Doc because there is little to see, not even dogs. A benefit, however, is that the miles are covered more quickly. He arrives at his destination around two in the morning, leaving him time to spare before low tide. He sits in his...

(The entire section is 615 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 19 Summary

Chapter 19 returns to the flagpole skater, the stunt performer hired by Holman's to draw attention to the department store. For days, the man has been atop the pole, skating in circles. He has never come down and people begin to wonder how such a thing is possible without cheating. The general consensus among those watching below is that some sort of support pole must rise through the platform at night so that the man could rest a bit. But no one really begrudges the flagpole skater this brief respite since he did not actually come down, not for fifty-one hours.

Holman's made a savvy marketing ploy when they decided to hire the stuntman. People came from as far away as Grimes Point, and it seemed most of Salinas made...

(The entire section is 561 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 20 Summary

Chapter 20 begins with the triumphant return of Mac and the boys from their frog-collecting expedition. They park the Model T back behind Lee Chong's, set it on blocks, drain the little remaining bit of gas, and take their heavy, dripping sacks of frogs back to the Palace Flophouse. Mack comes back to the grocery store alone to thank Lee for the use of his truck and to brag about their great success.

Doc is still away so Mack uses his considerable rhetorical skills to convince Lee that they need some money fronted to them for a good cause. He tells the Chinaman about the party they are planning to honor Doc. He reminds Lee how he, too, has benefited from Doc's largess, asking him to recall the time Doc gave Lee's wife...

(The entire section is 728 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 21 Summary

Chapter 21 concerns the aftermath of Mack and the boys' disastrous party for Doc at Western Biological Laboratories.

The lab is now quiet. Rats and snakes are in their cages. Sea life still sits in aquariums that managed to survive the carnage of the party. Machines make whirring and humming noises. It is the very early in the morning, "the hour of the pearl," where magic sometimes happens. It is the hour before the world must brace itself for the day.

Lee Chong emerges in this predawn hour, lugging out his trash for collection. The bouncer at the Bear Flag surveys the street and scratches his large belly. The steady and plaintive barks of sea lions penetrate the relative stillness. And in this hour, Doc...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 22 Summary

Chapter 23 focuses on Henri, the painter. Henri, it is learned, is neither French nor truly a painter. But in his mind, Henri has imagined himself French for so long that he has convinced everyone, especially himself, that he truly has lived in the Left Bank in Paris. In reality, he has never even visited Paris, much less lived there. His knowledge of French art and the latest trends, like Dadaism, are learned from periodicals. Henri is quick to adopt whatever trend is fashionable in Parisian circles, whether in philosophy, politics, or art. He becomes so enamored of whatever movement is fashionable that he does not find much time at all for actual painting.

While his few odd paintings leave something to be desired,...

(The entire section is 566 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 23 Summary

Chapter 23 describes the "black gloom" that is hanging over Mack and the boys back at the Palace Flophouse. Mack's face is still covered with blood, a result of the beating he took when Doc lost his temper after seeing the destruction that occurred at Western Biological following the disastrous party. As penance for his sins, and as a reminder of his deeds, Mack refuses to wash his face. Instead, he takes directly to his bed and stays there for the remainder of the day. Hurting worse than his broken mouth is his broken spirit; he feels he can do nothing right, no matter how good his intentions may be.

The other boys, while not physically injured, feel the weight of their crimes as well. Hughie and Jones decide to go to...

(The entire section is 823 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 24 Summary

Chapter 24 introduces two new characters, Mary and Tom Talbot. Young Mary is lovely. She has golden skin and green eyes with gold flecks. She has long legs and seems to float when she walks. Her face is often flushed with excitement.

Better than anything in the world, Mary loves throwing parties and going to parties. Her husband does not make a good deal of money, so often, Mary has to convince other people to give the parties. But whenever she is able to do so, Mary throws her own. She has numerous birthday parties every year and no holiday is neglected. Her husband, who loves her very much, is excited because she is excited.

In a way, Mary tries to stay gay in order to boost her husband's spirits. Money...

(The entire section is 573 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 25 Summary

Chapter 25 finds Mack mulling over the possibilities of a new party for Doc and reviewing exactly how the first one got so out of hand. Even though no one will admit to being superstitious, there is nevertheless a widespread belief among most people that once things go bad, they stay that way for a time, despite any attempts to alter the course of bad luck. Similarly, once things begin to take a turn for the better, a string of good luck follows. No one believes it, yet everyone accepts these things to be nonetheless true.

No one is more glad to see the good times start again than Mack, but everyone is sensing the change in fortunes. Doc has a run of success with women. Sam Malloy makes his wife happy by planting...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 26 Summary

As Chapter 26 begins, two little boys, Joey and Willard, are playing in the yard of the boat works. A cat jumps up on the fence and the boys give chase. They run after the cat for a good distance, picking up good, smooth rocks along the way to chuck at the creature but lose the crafty feline in the tall weeds. Even though their chase failed, the boys are pleased with the rocks they have picked up, for they are the perfect size and shape for throwing.

Walking back to Cannery Row, the two boys stop to practice their pitching and wield a few of their rocks at a metal sign. A man hears the commotion and comes out to find the perpetrators, but the boys are too quick for him. They run, hide, and giggle at the incompetence of...

(The entire section is 580 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 27 Summary

Chapter 27 begins with a reminder of the mythical names the author has bestowed on Mack and the boys: the Virtues, the Beatitudes, and the Beauties.

The boys are sitting around the Palace Flophouse and discussing the planning of Doc's new party. October 27, the day Doc has falsely told them was his birthday, has been settled on but the location has not. Mack says he had considered holding the party at their place, but it would be impossible to do so without losing the element of surprise.

There are a number of advantages to having a repeat of the party at Doc's own place, Mack reasons. First of all, Doc likes his laboratory. Second, he has music to play for the guests. Mack threatens to "kick the hell" out...

(The entire section is 593 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 28 Summary

Chapter 28 brings Frankie, the young, relatively homeless boy, back into the narrative.

After a disastrous attempt at helping Doc serve guests at a former party, Frankie made himself scarce. But eventually, even Frankie hears about the new party; everyone in Cannery Row is talking about it, and seemingly everyone is planning to attend.

Frankie learns that the party is to honor Doc on his birthday. Like everyone else, Frankie wants to do something special for the unofficial mayor of Cannery Row. He does not want to try to offer his help again, since he had failed so miserably before. In every conversation Frankie overhears, people are talking about what gift they are planning to give Doc. Frankie wants to...

(The entire section is 522 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 29 Summary

In Chapter 29, the day of the party has finally arrived. It is late afternoon and Doc is finishing securing everything that can possibly be secured. Doc tries to foresee every possible scenario for destruction. He locks up his records and makes sure no rattlesnakes are anywhere close to where a curious, inebriated guest might find them. Doc does not want the party to be boring, but he does want it to be as safe as it can possibly be, for both himself and his guests.

Doc brews a pot of coffee and puts a record on the phonograph. He takes a shower and puts on clean clothes. No one has yet told Doc the party is indeed happening on this particular day, but Doc feels certain that today is the day. All day long, he senses...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 30 Summary

In Chapter 30, the long-awaited party is taking place. Like anything that is overly anticipated, there is bound to be some letdown, and this occasion is no exception to the rule. Still, as things are getting under way, everyone's hopes are high for a fantastic evening.

At eight o'clock, just as they planned, Mack and the boys pick up their jugs of alcohol and head down the hill to Western Biological. When Doc opens the door, Mack makes his best attempt at a formal speech, to the embarrassment of them both. Still, Mack forges ahead; on behalf of all the boys, he wishes Doc a happy birthday and informs him that they are holding twenty-one cats as a birthday present over at the Palace Flophouse.

Mack finishes...

(The entire section is 582 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 31 Summary

Chapter 31 leaves human trials and looks at the natural world, which humans are, of course, a part of but rarely do they see their own troubles as bearing any resemblance to those of other, "lower" mammals.

This chapter is about a gopher. Fully grown and very able-bodied, the creature has moved into a weedy area of the vacant lot, the same lot where Mr. and Mrs. Malloy live in the windowless, abandoned boiler.

The mallow grass growing in the lot is green and thick. The ends of the grasses hold "little cheeses," which are delicious to gophers. The earth is ideal as well: rich and dark and composed of just enough clay to make it perfect for building sturdy tunnels that will not fall apart.


(The entire section is 515 words.)

Cannery Row Chapter 32 Summary

Chapter 32 is the final installment of Cannery Row. The party is long over. Doc struggles to awaken and return to reality as glimpses of the previous night slowly come into focus. He sees the new quilt on his bed, a birthday present from Dora and the girls, lovingly stitched for him out of remnants of their silk dresses. There is lipstick on his beard.

Less pleasant sights soon follow. Broken dishes are strewn about the floor. Wine has been spilled, seeping and staining where it has not been wiped up. Books have tumbled off the shelves and lie splayed out "like heavy fallen butterflies." Spent firecracker shells have left their red paper carcasses lying around.

The mess in the kitchen is...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Cannery Row Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Benton, Robert M. “The Ecological Nature of Cannery Row.” In Steinbeck: The Man and His Work, edited by Richard Astro and Tetsumaro Hayashi. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1971.

French, Warren. John Steinbeck’s Fiction Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1994. Thoroughly revises French’s two other books in this Twayne series. Chapters on Steinbeck’s becoming a novelist, his relationship to modernism, his short fiction, his wartime fiction, and his final fiction. Includes chronology, notes, and annotated bibliography.

Hughes, R. S. John Steinbeck: A Study of the Short Fiction....

(The entire section is 227 words.)