Cannery Row Chapter 10 Summary
by John Steinbeck

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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. 

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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. 

Doc, who has a long association with feral things, waits a long time before he asks Frankie any questions. Frankie answers his questions honestly. He does not go to school, he tells Doc "because they don't want him there." When Doc asks about his filthy hands and if he ever washes them, Frankie is deeply ashamed and from that point on, is careful to scrub them clean every day.

Frankie begins turning up at the laboratory daily. Doc makes sure that the story about being kicked out of school was true and it is. The school official tells Doc that Frankie has some sort of disability that prevents him from learning and has a coordination problem as well. Still, he is not "an idiot" and he is not a danger. He just does not fit in and his parents will not pay for any institution or other help. Frankly is essentially left to fend for himself. 

Doc allows Frankie to stay and they do not say much to one another but one day Doc asks Frankie why he comes. Frankie says his father is dead and there are uncles at home who either hit him or "give [him] a nickel." Either way, it is clear that Frankie is not wanted. 

Doc takes the boy under his wing. He gets rid of the lice in his hair and buys him new clothes at Lee Chong's. For these minor acts of kindness, "Frankie became his slave." At the laboratory, Doc tries and tries to teach Frankie to be his helper but Doc soon discovers that what the school had said was true: Frankie does have a learning disability and cannot seem to grasp even the simplest concepts that Doc tries to teach him. Doc recognizes Frankie's limits and stops trying to push him. Instead, he gives Frankie tasks he can do, like lighting his cigars. 

Frankie's favorite things are the frequent parties at...

(The entire section is 688 words.)