Cannery Row Chapter 6 Summary
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 6 Summary

Chapter 6 finds Doc on a collecting expedition. Located on the "tip of the Peninsula," the Great Tide Pool is a marvelous spot for gathering specimens. When the tide goes out, the sea floor reveals its formerly hidden bounty: crabs, starfish, mussels, snails, eels, and others all scurry about looking for cover or for an easy meal. 

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The reality of nature is not sugar-coated nor is it studied without judgment. An octopus is described as a "creeping murderer" with "evil goat eyes" who attacks his prey "Coldly...ferociously...savagely." The world of the sea is no more kind or cruel than the world of men, it seems. Here on "life and riches...death and digestion...decay and birth, burden the air." 

Doc is not alone on his collecting trip. He has brought Hazel, one of the residents of the Palace Flop House, with him. The narrator explains how Hazel got his odd name. "Hazel" is typically a name given to a female child. But Hazel was his mother's eighth baby. She worked herself to exhaustion trying to support her seven other children and her lazy husband. Hazel's mother was so tired when he was born that she became confused about his gender. Besides, his mother had a great aunt that may have had some life insurance; the naming of her child after her was a long shot at being named in the will. So before anybody could do anything about it, the boy was christened "Hazel." 

Unsurprisingly, Hazel had a hard life. He only received four years of formal education; he then spent an additional four years at a reform school. While this sort of treatment may have embittered others, Hazel remained innocent and soft-hearted. He asked Doc lots of questions, not because he was interested, really; he just liked to hear people talk. Doc liked him and considered Hazel to be a good and useful helper, for Hazel was not only willing and loyal, but he had quick fingers and was "sure-footed on slippery rocks." Today, they were collecting starfish. 

The pair work quickly. Knowing Hazel likes to talk, Doc asks him about life at the Flophouse. Hazel tells him that a new man who goes by the name of Gay is moving in. As Gay tells it, he is moving out of his home because his wife hits him when he is asleep. Gay has had enough; he is not getting any sleep so he left his wife and moved in with the boys. 

To keep the conversation going,...

(The entire section is 640 words.)