Cannery Row Essay, Research Paper
In his book Cannery Row, John Steinbeck characterizes different qualities of life, and uses symbolism to express those qualities. Cannery Row is an emphasis on the importance of friendship, and how the hardships of life can be healthy in some ways.
Although the story s characters represent certain aspects of life, such as corruption and simplicity, the specific symbols in the book are more obvious and apparent. Cannery Row itself is a symbol for the innocence of uncorrupted man. Early in the book, its inhabitants are described as Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men (1). Mack and the boys are also a symbol. They represent humbleness and the simplicity of life. Instead of succumbing to the complex world around them, they lead a more carefree life. Because of that, they are considered to be the Virtues, the Graces, the Beauties of the hurried mangled craziness of Monterey. (15) Finally, Doc, who is the central character of the book, symbolizes the intelligence and conscience of Cannery Row; he is known as the fountain of philosophy and science and art (29). In addition to being the town s chief biologist and doctor, he also plays the role of a psychiatrist. The citizens of Cannery Row refer to him as a wise man, whose mind had no horizon-and his sympathy had no warp. (29)
Not only does Steinbeck use heavy symbolism, but also more importantly, he makes direct characterizations of common qualities of mankind, ranging from greed to lust to kindness. Greed, a very primary human quality, is characterized in Lee Chong, the prominent storeowner and businessman of Cannery Row. In addition to greed, the basic human quality of lust is characterized by Dora Flood s whorehouse. Flood s whorehouse is a very prominent and popular business in Cannery Row. It s safe to say that most of the characters in the story are negatively motivated. However, contrary to these, the most important and significant character of man: pure kindness and the care for fellow man, is characterized within Doc. As a result of Doc s good character, and his actions and deeds as well, a countless number of people in Cannery Row are indebted to him. It was often that someone was heard to say I really must do something nice for Doc. (29)
Cannery Row is a story about the common bond that all people share; it s about the camaraderie felt by the citizens of the town. They are all loyal to each other, and because of their purity they are all completely satisfied with their lives, no matter how poorly they live. The story emphasizes the significance of friendship, and how a simple society untouched by the world can function as well as, and sometimes better than any other.