Chapter 12 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 545

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...

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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 years, many other authors made Monterey their home, but none was as esteemed as Stevenson by the older residents. Still, when the humorist Josh Billings suffered a slight there when he died, everyone felt indignant about the mistreatment. 

The story goes this way. One early morning, a local, Mr. Carriga, is out for his morning constitutional. Along the way, he notices a young boy and his dog. The boy is carrying a fresh liver in his hands; the dog is trailing a long section of intestines from its mouth, at the end of which is attached a stomach. 

Mr. Carriga stops the boy with a polite hello and asks what he is going to do with the liver. The lad replies that he is going to "make some chum and catch some mackerel." With a smile, Carriga asks whether the dog is going to go fishing with his bait as well. The boy replies that whatever the dog has, it belongs to him; they found their discarded items in the gulch. 

The boy and the man part ways but something nags at Mr. Carriga about the boy's bait. The liver, he decides, is too small to be beef; it is too red to be that of a calf; nor is it from a sheep. 

Carriga meets Mr. Ryan and asks whether he knows of any deaths in Monterey the previous night. He does not know but Carriga tells him about the boy and the dog and his suspicions anyway.

The story still nags at him so Mr. Carriga repeats it at the Adobe Bar. He finds out that no one had died in Monterey proper, but Josh Billings had died at the Hotel del Monte. Without having to discuss it, everyone at the bar surmises what had happened. They feel ashamed that Billings had honored them by dying in Monterey and had been so repaid. 

A committee is quickly assembled to pay a visit to the local doctor, who also serves as the town's mortician. He acknowledges having embalmed Billings. When the committee asks what he had done with the "tripas," the doctor confesses that he threw them into the gulch, just as he had always done. 

Without delay, the men take the doctor down to the gulch, where he is forced to gather and wash, as well as he can, the remaining parts. The town also sees to it that the doctor pays for Billings's lead coffin out of his own pocket, for the residents of Monterey would "not let dishonor come to a literary man."

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