Cannery Row Chapter 19 Summary
by John Steinbeck

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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. 

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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 it to gawk as well. Not everyone went into the store to shop, but many did, and Holman's made the most of their moments in the sun, with sale after sale designed to lure in shoppers. 

The flagpole skater has more to worry about than just his stamina, as he was attempting to break his own record (which had stood for a solid year so far). On the second day, the skater reported that he was being fired at with an air gun. After some detective work, the culprit turned out to be Doctor Merrivale. The doctor plugged away at the skater as he hid behind the curtains in his office. Once caught, he swore he would stop and the police left it at that. He was, after all, "prominent in the Masonic lodge."

Henri, the painter, had refused to go with Doc on his collecting trip to La Jolla because he was so enamored with the flagpole skater. His interest has not lessened one bit when Doc returns. He is intrigued with the premise of the whole stunt on a philosophical level. Something about the endurance wed to such futility must have appealed to Henri. He resolves to build a platform for himself at home to study the problem personally and more intensely. 

Henri is not the only one whose imagination is captivated by the skater. It seems everyone in town is...

(The entire section is 561 words.)