Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Doc, the owner and operator of Western Biological Laboratory. He was graduated from the University of Chicago. Doc is small, strong, and wiry, and he loves science, beer, women, classical music, books, and prints. He is a thoroughly civilized man and the acknowledged, but unofficial, “mayor” of Cannery Row in Monterey. He is a fountain of wisdom, philosophy, and sometimes medical and psychiatric advice. Doc has a pointed brown beard and is described as half Christ and half satyr. Doc has a fear of getting his head wet. He is beloved by all but is nevertheless a lonely and remote man.

Mack and the Boys

Mack and the Boys, a group of unemployed men who live in the Palace Flophouse. They are open, honest, and generous in their way, kind and understanding, and sometimes extremely compassionate. They have no greed, meanness, egotism, or self-interest.


Mack, the leader of the Boys. Once married, Mack is very intelligent and without conventional ambition. To the others, he is mentor, sage, and sometimes exploiter. He leads the frog-hunting expedition and plans Doc’s party. It is said that Mack could have been the president of the United States if he had so wanted. Mack loves food, drink, and, sometimes, women and fighting.

Dora Flood

Dora Flood, the proprietor of the Bear Flag Restaurant, which actually is a decent, clean, honest, old-fashioned brothel. Dora is probably in her late sixties and, the narrator says, is respected by the intelligent, learned, and kind; she is hated by spinsters and prudish women. She is a large woman with orange hair and a big heart. During the Depression, she paid for groceries for many poor families, and she is a large donator to local worthy causes. During the influenza epidemic, she put her cook to work making soup and her girls to work delivering it.



(The entire section is 790 words.)

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The characters of Cannery Row are mostly stereotypes, simplifications which illustrate Steinbeck’s fondness for the vagrant, the eccentric, the genial pariah. Only Doc has the complexity of a major character. Educated enough to know marine biology, sensitive enough to surround his laboratory with reproductions of works of art and to enjoy classical music, shrewd enough to know how to deal with the schemes and cons of the boys, gentle enough to befriend the simpleminded, he is at heart a loafer, a drifter, “concupiscent as a rabbit,” fond of beer and company, yet a loner.

He is, too, literary kin to earlier Steinbeck heroes. Tom Joad from The Grapes of Wrath, for example, who was also a sensitive though politically astute individual whose natural bent seemed to be centifugal rather than centripetal: His temperament drove him away from the family unit and toward a self-imposed isolation. George Milton in Of Mice and Men (1937) was an even earlier antecedent of Doc, clearly the same sensitive yet isolated being, whose care and love for Lenny, the gentle but brutish misfit, keeps him apart from the mainstream of society. Doc’s befriending of Hazel, the simple, slow-witted boy-man of the group, is indicative both of his role as leader and of his isolated position. Doc’s compassion allows him to care for Hazel, to give him a job as laboratory assistant, but at the same time, Hazel allows Doc the opportunity to remain a private person, uncommunicative about the things that really matter, just as an adult plays with a child, keeping his real personality hidden in the game. It is this...

(The entire section is 664 words.)