Cannery Row Chapter 20 Summary
by John Steinbeck

Start Your Free Trial

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. 

Download Cannery Row Study Guide

Subscribe Now

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 laudanum for her toothache. But still, Lee is reluctant. 

Frogs are as good as cash. Everyone, including Lee, knows that Doc's standard pay is five cents per frog. Mack claims that they have a thousand frogs. Lee and Mack both know that equals fifty dollars. So when Mack asks for a loan and offers "a five-frog profit," even though Lee is initially resistant, eventually he agrees. Mack may not be good for the money, but Doc will be, no question about it. 

Before he will give out any merchandise, Lee requires that he actually see the frogs. Satisfied with the great bounty of croakers he observes at the Palace, Mack is allowed to bring two dollars worth of frogs in cans to the store in exchange for goods. Lee creates a damp and comfortable holding space for his charges at the store to await Doc's return.

Soon others from the flophouse arrive with cans of frogs ready to trade. Lee makes a profit by marking up his frogs-to-product ratio. He feels entitled to doing so, for what other merchant would accept frogs as currency? Even though Lee's prices are exorbitant and the boys know they are getting a raw deal, no one gets too upset. They could not bring themselves to get very worked up about the price of anything "for they were not mercantile men." 

Back at the flophouse, Darling, the pointer dog given to Mack by the landowner from the frogging expedition, is probably the greatest beneficiary of the new flow of treats into the house, for every man shares a bit of what he has with her. 

Their appetites temporarily satisfied, the boys turn their attentions back to planning Doc's party. Hughie suggests decorations and Mack thinks that it is a capital idea. They do not care what holiday decor is in stock at Lee's; anything will do so long as it is festive, from Fourth of July streamers to Valentine's Day hearts. It is decided that Eddie will bake a cake, even though he has never done so before in his...

(The entire section is 728 words.)