This story takes place in Cannery Row, which is in Monterey, sometime in the 1940's. Cannery Row is a small town, where everyone knows each other. There is quite a collection of businesses there, including a laboratory, a store, and other places here and there. Cannery Row is very quiet unless there is a party or a holiday. There are many interesting people and all of them have stories to tell. The community is diverse and so is the culture.
Point of View
This novel is written in third person omniscient because the author allows a look in many characters heads. It is written this way because the book is a collection of stories of many different people, not just one person.
“...he contemplated with humor and sadness a business deal that had been consummated that afternoon and reconsummated later that same afternoon”(p7).
This shows that the reader is inside Lee Chong’s mind as he contemplates a decision he made earlier.
“And William began to wish he could join that good group”(p18).
This shows William the bouncer at the Bear Flag’s as he longs to be a part of Mack and the boy’s group.
“In Doc’s head the monotonal opening of Monte Verdi’s Hor ch’el Ciel e la Terra began to form, the infinitely sad and resigned mourning of Petrarch for Laura”(p130).
This shows Doc’s thoughts and he finds out who destroyed his house and possessions.
Mack is a man who tries to do the right things, but in doing so always winds up doing something bad. For example, when he wanted to throw Doc a party, it all backfired against him. First of all Doc wasn’t home when the party was thrown and second, his house and all his things were broken or destroyed. He is a very good storyteller and makes up things to get himself out of trouble. He is also very imaginative. He thinks what he is doing is actually what someone wants when it actually the exact opposite of what they want. Also, when he was living in the Palace Flophouse and grill, he made a deal with Lee Chong to pay him five dollars a week to live there, but he never did. Even though he really did think he was going to.
Doc is very nice. He seldom gets angry and if he does it isn’t long-lived. For example, when Mack threw the party and destroyed most of his stuff, he got angry and hit him, but then he told him to wash up and Doc went over to Lee’s and got some liquor. Then he sat down and asked what had happened. Doc is very intelligent and literate, and likes to listen to music that brings out emotions in him. He is nice to everyone even if he doesn’t like them and is no fool. He sells animals and plants to people. Doc will try and help people as long as he can, and will put others before himself. For instance, when Cannery Row’s inhabitants were all catching a disease, he went from home to home helping out.
Conflict and Resolution
In this novel there is more than one protagonist, but if I had to choose one, it would be Mack. Mack’s conflict is man versus self. He tries to do things for others, but always seems to just help himself and what he tries to do backfires against him.
“It’s always like this. I had a wife, same thing. Everything I done turned sour. She couldn’t stand it any more”(p131).
This shows that he tried to do nice things for people but something always went wrong. As in when he gave his wife a present there was something wrong with it. It wasn’t his fault. He just has bad luck. When he tried to throw Doc a party, it ended up costing Doc a fortune, with all the broken things.
Mack tries really hard, but just doesn’t think enough about something before he does it. Because of this everyone stays away from him and doesn’t want Mack to do something for them. He did resolve his problem with Doc, however. He decided to throw Doc a party on his birthday, but this time Doc knew about it, and put all his breakables away. And it was a success, although some things were broken. It made Mack feel good, and it also made Doc feel good to know that someone was trying to thank him for all his help and really appreciated him.
Overall this book was very good and I would recommend it to all who like Steinbeck’s work and those who haven’t read any of his stories. It was fun to read and it didn’t have such long chapters that people forget what they read when they get to the end of the chapter. This novel had a lot of strengths and very few weaknesses.
It was very interesting and will keep anyone on their toes and wanting to read it, once they get into the book. The title of this novel misleads as it creates a picture in someone’s mind that is completely unlike what it is really about. It is also a short book and sometimes that helps people decide whether they want to read something or not. After reading this book, I thought Steinbeck could have added more to this story. One of its weaknesses was that it wasn’t focused on one thing and was confusing. One chapter was completely different from the next so it was always a surprise when reading the next chapter. I guess that is good in some ways though, because it wasn’t the same boring thing and went well with the book.
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