Chapter 5 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519

Doc's laboratory, Western Biological, faces the empty lot; on the right is Lee Chong's grocery and on the left, Dora's Bear Flag Restaurant. Doc's laboratory is full of the strange and unexpected. There are all manner of sea creatures: sponges, stars, anemones, worms, and many varieties of shrimps. In addition...

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Doc's laboratory, Western Biological, faces the empty lot; on the right is Lee Chong's grocery and on the left, Dora's Bear Flag Restaurant. Doc's laboratory is full of the strange and unexpected. There are all manner of sea creatures: sponges, stars, anemones, worms, and many varieties of shrimps. In addition to sea life, there are also land-dwelling animals: rats and snakes, bees and Gila monsters, cats and frogs. In this list of collections, not truly made much more distinct than the other specimens, are the "little unborn humans, some whole, others sliced thin and mounted on slides." Doc does not make any great differentiation between one life form to be studied and any other. 

The laboratory has a basement: this is where Doc does his embalming work. In the backyard, a shed holds tanks that contain sharks, octopi, and rays. In the front of the building, a stairway leads to Doc's cluttered office. His desk is piled high with papers. There is a filing cabinet and an open safe. The safe doesn't do much, because Doc never locks it. One time, a can of sardines and some stinky cheese got locked inside and Doc couldn't get it open. Now food goes in the filing cabinet. 

Behind the office is another workroom, where smaller tanks house smaller specimens. Here there are also microscopes and other equipment necessary for Doc's endeavors. The place is full of smells: sea water, formaldehyde, acidic odors, and various oils, among others. 

Doc's library is to the left of his office. In addition to his vast library, Doc also keeps his beloved phonograph there, as well as his chairs, benches, and his bed. Reproductions of famous works of art cover the walls. The kitchen is behind the library/bedroom.

The description of the laboratory ends and a description of its proprietor begins. Doc is not a tall man, but he is "wiry and strong." He has a beard. His face is "half Christ and half Satyr and his face tells the truth." Doc has the steady hands of a surgeon. Doc is kind and respectful to everyone; he even "tips his hat to dogs." He kills only for science, never for pleasure. His only fear is of getting his head wet, so he almost always wears a hat. 

Doc is a part of the landscape of Cannery Row as much as his physical building. Over time, he became the town's resident philosopher and a comfort to those around him, even when he was not directly ministering to their troubles. The music from his records wafted across the road. Over at the Bear Flag, Dora and her girls heard the Gregorian chants; Lee Chong in his grocery heard the Plain Songs while his son, Li Po, read to him. Henri, the resident who fancied himself an artist, heard it as he worked on his latest installation which required glue and chicken feathers, among other materials. All of these people had an affection for Doc because he could "take any kind of nonsense" and "change it...to wisdom." Everyone in town wanted to "do something nice for Doc." 

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