Cannery Row Chapter 18 Summary
by John Steinbeck

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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.  

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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 truck, eats a few of his sandwiches, drinks a couple of beers, and falls asleep. 

Doc's long habit of being attuned to the tides is the only alarm clock he needs to awaken. He uncurls himself from his sleeping position on the car seat and waits for the sea to recede. When it does, Doc pulls on his rubber wading boots and dons his hat. He gathers up the equipment he needs for his collecting, grabs his crowbar, then climbs down to the beach, where the now-exposed floor is accessible. 

Angry octopi soon find their new home to be a glass specimen jar; their angry, ink-spewing protests do nothing to change that fact. Doc is pleased with the results of the day. He has gathered "twenty-two little octopi."

His order for the creatures is fulfilled, but Doc has collecting for his own use he wants to pursue. Carefully, he heads down the edge of the barrier's rock. Eventually, he comes to the outer barrier, where brown algae hangs from the rocks like shredded lengths of curtains. As he is poking around among the red starfish and weeds, a "flash of white" catches his eye. 

Doc moves closer to investigate. He parts the floating algae with his hands. What he sees stops him cold. The flash of white is the from the dead body of a young girl. Her dark hair swims about her face in the current. Her eyes are "open and clear." As her face is still intact and "firm," it is unlikely that she has been dead for...

(The entire section is 615 words.)