Cannery Row Characters
by John Steinbeck

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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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.


Hazel, one of the Boys, twenty-six years old and dark-haired. He is not very bright and has no viciousness or guile. He occasionally helps Doc with the collecting of marine life and is good at it. Hazel, who has had four years of regular school and four years in reform school, was named for his great aunt by his exhausted and confused mother, who had borne seven children in eight years.


Eddie, one of the Boys, the understudy bartender at La Ida, from which he brings home jugs full of dregs from all the drink glasses.


Gay, one of the Boys, married to a woman who sometimes beats him while he is asleep. Gay is an excellent auto mechanic but drinks too much and is often in jail.

Lee Chong

Lee Chong, a Chinese grocery store owner and owner of the Palace Flophouse. He stands behind the cigar counter, in front of the whiskey shelves, wearing half-glasses and extending credit judiciously. Lee Chong is shrewd but kind and can be generous and sentimental. He is a wise man, sometimes abused but always tolerant.


Henri, a painter, who is not French and whose name is not really Henri. He sometimes paints with chicken feathers, sometimes with nutshells. He loves all things French and all things modern. He is swarthy and morose. Henri has been married twice and has had many other women in his life, but they always leave him because he lives in an unfinished boat, up on blocks and with no plumbing.


Alfred, a bouncer at the Bear Flag Restaurant. He is accepted by the Boys. His talent is for keeping order without actually hurting anyone.

“The Captain,”

“The Captain,” the owner of the frog pond raided by Mack and the Boys. The Captain, whose wife is in politics, is clearly henpecked, but she is away.


Frankie, a mentally retarded and physically uncoordinated eleven-year-old who usually is filthy. Frankie loves Doc absolutely but is unable to function in society.


Wilbur, who used to work for Dora as a bouncer. He wanted to be one of the Boys but was never accepted by them.

Sam Malloy

Sam Malloy and

Mrs. Malloy

Mrs. Malloy, who live happily in a boiler in a vacant lot until Mrs. Malloy gets the urge to decorate with window curtains. Seeing...

(The entire section is 1,454 words.)