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Drawing characters based on his memories of real inhabitants of Monterey, Steinbeck interweaves the stories of Doc, Henri, Mack, and his boys, in a world where only the fittest survive, in a novel that focuses on the acceptance of life as it is--a story at once humorous and poignant.
Posted November 28, 2007
At first when I started Cannery Row, I figured it was going to be a boring story I might not finish. As I read further, it grew better. Cannery Row tells the story of the local characters living and working around an area of defunct canning factories, set in the 1940's. It feels like the biography of a small town, with the setting and emotions, as characters. This stands out from other stories because it feels gritty, but it is not a sad, disgusting gritty it is more a melancholy, sleepy sort of gritty. The story has the feeling of a perpetual Sunday morning, being laid back, but without the worries of Monday. Even though Cannery Row is sleepy and meanders along, the humor is not. Sometimes, the humor isn¿t obvious you won¿t know something is going to be funny right off, instead you¿ll unconsciously get the joke later in the story. Other times, the humor builds up like suspense and you¿ll know what¿s coming long before the characters know anything is wrong. The first few chapters are short stories they set up the characters so you¿ll understand everyone¿s motives and personalities during the main plot. The characters are well developed, forming great mind pictures from the shrewd general store owner Lee Chong, Doc the kind and quiet marine biologist, to Mack the carefree, almost philosophical leader of the bums at the Palace Flophouse. The story is also compelling because of the variety of subjects. I found the parts about Doc¿s job of collecting fish and seashells interesting because I knew nothing about it detail Steinbeck went into led you to feel as if you were with doc, knee deep in clear seawater learning about the ocean firsthand. Doc and the girl in the water was attention-grabbing and sad because nothing like it had happened previously in the story. Also the different types of stories within the main story added curiosity. Steinbeck takes time exploring each character¿s past actions, which makes this story a great melting pot of emotions and feelings. If you aren¿t interested in books with ¿meaning¿, and you only enjoy books with action filled plots, you might not want to read this now. If you only read a few books during your lifetime, make this one of them.
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Posted June 26, 2007
I completely agree with che'ek. I first started reading it and got about 80 pages in and stopped for a while. I started to read it more and it turned out to be one of the best books I've ever read.
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Posted March 10, 2007
This book is poetry. Episodic, full of great characters, gritty, a feel for life in Monterey that is long vanished. Perhaps not ultimately as profound as Grapes of Wrath, but futher evidence of Steinbeck as a great american novelist.
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Posted August 21, 2006
When I first started reading Cannery Row, I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I thought it was a drug out story with no plot and these stupid little interchapters between. But, I forced myself to read more, and it got better. It got better because I understood it more. Cannery Row isn't about the story, it's about what's behind it. There are so many themes and lessons that will shine through if you take the time to look back and reflect after you finish the novel. I HIGHLY recommend reading the introduction by Susan Shillinglaw after you read the book, because that's when it will make sense. THEN THE READER CAN TRULY APPRECIATE THE BOOK, AND TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM IT AS WELL.
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Posted January 25, 2006
If you like a sweet, entertaining, and witty novel, then Cannery Row is the book for you. The small fishing town of Cannery Row is home to some of the most eccentric characters. I loved reading about the unusual, friendly, and clever characters in their day to day life. Steinbeck's poetic language makes this book worth the read. He describes the town and everyone in it with great imagery. I would recommend this book to junior high and above, because it might not be understandable to younger kids. Cannery Row is all-around an enjoyable book to read that leaves you feeling caring and happy.
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Posted February 28, 2013
The reader is welcomed to Cannery Row by being informed that it becomes itself only after the work that gives the area its name ceases. It then becomes “quiet and magical” with the stories that create it can, like those who inhabit the Row, only “crawl in by themselves” (p.2-3), as they cannot be forced into obedience. These stories are of people, their relationships and how that synergy creates a world of community so close knit that all are accepted because none need fear being rejected.
Cannery Row is home to unforgettable characters. Lee Chong, the original “Sam Walton” whose small shop stocks everything (but discounts nothing - EVER). Dora Flood, the “Mother” of the row and proprietor of “The Bear Flag Restaurant” whose “girls” serve specials never listed on the menu, if The Bear Flag had a menu as it is not a restaurant. Mack, Hazel (so named because he was the seventh child born to his parents in eight years and his mother forgot he was a boy), Eddie, Hughie and Jones who serve as the “caretakers” of the Row while not being bothered with consistent employment or knowing the lack of sustenance. Finally there is Doc, owner and operator of Western Biological Laboratory who is the heart that causes the Row to be sustained.
The book is arranged by observations of these characters as they go about their lives with each other on The Row connected by short chapters of philosophical musings about what was just seen. These “musings” were reminiscent of those conversations once held on front porches, around wood stoves, dorm rooms late at night or over cups of various libations. What is achieved in this manner is a feeling of inclusion and a depth of meaning that was somehow not present before the book was opened. Merely by “observing” those on The Row as they go about living, the author is able to bring the reader back to a clearer look at him/herself.
The book is a classic, it has been read for generations in high school and college classes and it merits this label. The language is spot-on for each character (there is some “adult” language used) and the movie (starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger) is good but cannot reflect the power the book offers. The narrator plays with the disbelief of the reader, causing her/him to be reminded that this is not reality and they are only observing the Row from a distance, the response is that akin to watching a play unfold. Listening to the book helps to dim the illusion of the fourth wall (between the fiction and the reader). This technique is a safety net for those moments when the book becomes a little too close. The frog expedition to the Carmel River and the ensuing birthday party for Doc (which he knew nothing of even though it was at his house) are two instances where this was true and they are worth reading the book in themselves.
I am glad I visited Monterey, twice in fact, in one summer. The first was the glitzy, tourist Mecca in a breathtaking setting. The second was the “magical” place full of quirky, often unsafe, unpredictably dependable people whom d0 not realize how special they are. Now that I read that last sentence, the reason I enjoyed this book so much is clearer, it sounds like my hometown.
Posted September 7, 2012
Knowing that on our upcoming visit to California we would visit both Cannery Row in Monterey and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, as well as have lunch at the Steinbeck House, I decided I'd better pick a Steinbeck novel to read. I had read Grapes of Wrath many years ago, but, otherwise, knew very little about Steinbeck or his writing. After reading some of the posted reviews on this site, I wasn't sure that I'd even finish reading Cannery Row. I started reading it on our flight to Monterey and found that it was much more readable and interesting than I thought it would be. Of course, as I walked down Cannery Row in Monterey, Steinbeck's characters kept popping out at me and made me more interested in the book. I will try another bit of Steinbeck after reading this book, also in part because of our visit to the Steinbeck Center which gave so much background information on both Steinbeck and his writing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2012
Posted May 10, 2012
John Steinbeck, the author of the famous novels, “Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men” continues his unique yet not so unique style with “Cannery Row”. This novel, set immediately after the Great Depression and World War II is ironically a feel-good book. Steinbeck writes with his usual technique of a local setting with characters fighting to survive the struggles of everyday life.
Although Steinbeck throws in the sorrows of the real world such as when Doc finds a dead girl on the beach, more than one person commits suicide and a harmless mentally challenged boy is sent to an institution this novel takes the form of a happy one. Steinbeck uses his common theme that good can beat evil. His book implies that good-heartedness can create utopia anywhere on Earth, whether it be on the run down Cannery Row or not.
Steinbeck’s novels often deal with incorrect stereotypes. The characters in his books are not always as they seem on the outside. For example in “Cannery Row” a grocer who seems tough on the outside actually keeps the street running because of his generosity towards his customers. A low-life man who can’t hold down a job gently is able to nurse puppies back to health and a successful doctor who is surrounded by friends is actually extremely lonely. This is a common theme throughout the book.
Though this can be called a fantasy novel it too has its touch of darkness. Instead of incorporating the hardship themes in real life in the plot line, Steinbeck makes separate chapters to rant. In chapter two Steinbeck goes off of the plot already, to write about his own opinions and speculations of our nation and our world. Steinbeck relies on these off-topic rants to get away from his closely followed plot filled with realistic descriptions of the old local town he knows to add in his anti-utopian thoughts. This allows the novel to end with an optimistic outlook despite his non-related chapters of darkness.
Overall the typical Steinbeck writes another novel with the same themes and techniques. Although not as deep as his “Of Mice and Men” Steinbeck takes the same approach to shed some light on a local run down town soon after the Great Depression.
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Posted April 16, 2012
Posted July 27, 2011
Posted December 31, 2010
Posted October 27, 2010
After reading the great novel Of Mice and Men, I suddenly became a fan of Steinbeck. In the novel Of Mice and Men, his usage of the language showed their accents, and how he showed the casual language in the certain period in a natural way. Today, as a fan of his writing I decided to share his other tremendous novel Cannery Row written in 1945. Cannery Row is a novel that attempts to capture the feeling and people of a place, the cannery district, California. Due to its humorous language, I would award this novel a ninety out of a hundred. I especially recommend this book to people eager to understand the situation and how people suffered during the Great Depression. This is a great book not only performed good history background but also its humorous, funny, natural spoken language found in this book, Cannery Row.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2010
I enjoyed Cannery Row.A shorter story by Steinbeck standards it had great characters ranging from Doc who is widely looked up to in this town and Mac and his followers who live in the palace flop-house and don't work or have any real concerns in life.Dora runs a whore house and as a whole the town is small an all who live in this town know eachothers business. The story flowed well ,but as a whole it just did not have the impact of other Steinbeck classics. However it was an enjoyable read and I will will now read the 2nd part of the story - Sweet Thursday and give my rating from there.
Posted January 21, 2010
Although this book does not have a plot, it was one of the best book I have ever read. The way Steinback writes this books is fluid, vivid and absolutely beautiful. After reading the first few pages, you just get sucked into the story and you can't wait to find out how the fate of the characters plays out. Beautiful!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 4, 2005
¿Cannery Row¿, for the most part, does not have a plot. Mostly it covers the misadventures of a group of men in ¿Cannery Row¿ known as Mack and the boys. To many, they are considered social outcasts avoiding work and fancy ladies they are seen as philosophers in their time. Everyone in the town knows that any dealing with them almost always ends disastrously, but their efforts are always done with the best intentions. Many times throughout the book Mack and the boys attempt to do something nice for the nicest guy in town, known simply as ¿Doc¿. After a disastrous first attempt at a party, Mack and the boys isolate themselves from everyone else and their social standings in the town as it is sinks even lower. By putting time and effort into their next party, everyone in town, including, Dora the manager of a local bar, Henri, a painter, Lee Chong, the owner of the grocery store down the street, and many others come to the party to celebrate Doc¿s birthday. Due to the tremendous success of the party, Mack and the boys are redeemed in the eyes of Doc and the rest of the town. This is yet another book that seems to go nowhere, the only inkling of a plot lies buried deep underneath a serious of random and sometimes unfortunate events. The story seems to waiting for a plot until the reader is halfway through it and realizes that the plot has already begun. However, one of the greater aspects of the book is the way Steinbeck sets up his characters. The reader is told almost right way about the characters personality and characteristics by what the character has done so far and of what others think of him. When readers thinks that they have got an idea of what the character¿s behavior is like, the character does something totally unexpected, adding another layer to the character and making them into more of a three dimensional person. While ¿Cannery Row¿ was written well in the way of characters and consequences, the story was lacking in substance.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 3, 2005
¿Cannery Row¿, by John Steinbeck, is a book written many years ago and gives the reader a visualization of what life was like back then. The two main characters in this book are completely different and have different ways of doing things. Steinbeck shows us how two people like this can come together and enjoy one an others company. This book shows us how two people that don¿t view life the same way can still end up becoming friends. While one character, Doc, is very respected among the people of Cannery Row, the other character, Mack, is very much disliked and distrusted because everything he does seems to go wrong. Yet among the many mistakes and problems one has, there is still a light and a hope through it all, that just needs to be found. John Steinbeck is really able to portray his events and characters very well. One reading this book is able to grasp each character and what part they play in the building of the story. Within this book, Mack is the man who tries to be nice, but everything seems to go wrong for him. At times, because he has little money, he tries to cheat people and get more than he pays for. This builds a great distrust for him among the people. While disfavored and not very much liked in Cannery Row, something greater is seen within him by Doc. Doc keeps giving Mack another chance and tries to build something within him. In the end of the book, this curse is broken and Mac finally does something good and redeems himself from the social pit he was thrown into.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 3, 2005
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck takes place in Cannery Row, Monterey in California. Cannery Row is a book without much of a plot. It is an attempt to capture the feeling and people of a place, the cannery district of Monterey, California, which is populated by a mix of those down-on-their-luck and those who are down-and-out. The flow of the main plot is frequently interrupted by short stories that introduce us to various characters of the Cannery Row, most of whom are not directly connected with the central story. These stories are often characterized by direct or indirect reference to violence. Characterization is a very important part in writing. Mack and the Boys are described as a group of down-and-out but always charming men who live together in the run-down fishmeal shack. Mack is the ringleader, a smart man who can charm anyone into anything. Mack attempts to do things the easy way and to his advantage which often gets him into trouble. Doc, the owner of Western Biological Laboratory, is described as a gentle man who is a friend and aid to all in Cannery Row. The descriptions of Mack and the Boys may make people realize that being down-and-out doesn¿t mean that a person has to give up on everything. Instead we should do our best to keep going and live our lives the best we can.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 2, 2005
¿Cannery Row,¿ by John Steinbeck, is about throwing a party for someone who really deserves is and will enjoy it. This story takes place in Monterey, California, a small town during the era of the depression. One of the main characters, Mac, is a fairly intelligent, kind man. Mac¿s goal in this book is to give one of the town¿s hero¿s, Doc, a party to show him all of the appreciation and gratitude that the people have for him. The first attempt to make this happen starts out really well, but soon turns sour. ¿Cannery Row¿ is more about presenting a wide range of characters and describing them very well than having a great plot. Mac is a character described throughout the book. He has a wide range of emotions, from ecstatic to down and out, which he goes through. John Steinbeck, proves this book¿s purpose very well by describing the emotions of the setting and characters. He describes different moments that take place throughout a day in Cannery Row. When Doc returns home from a business trip Steinbeck takes you through Docs house and describes every detail of what Doc is seeing. Steinbeck also describes the emotions in the characters lives. He describes how Mr. Talbot feels about their situation in life and how he is tired of putting on a smile and pretending it is all okay. By doing this, Steinbeck is able to describe more of Cannery Row than to have to work on making the plot the main point of this story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 4, 2005
¿Cannery Row,¿ by John Steinbeck, follows the everyday lives of group of people living in Cannery Row in Monterey, California. One of the story¿s central characters is Doc. Doc is kind of like the town¿s go-to guy. He helps people out of problems, and he is generally a nice guy. Mack and the buys live in the Palace Flophouse. They have no jobs and no self-fulfillment. Lee Chong is the grocery store owner. He has everything anyone could basically need in his store. Dora runs the Bear-Flag-Hotel, a whorehouse that is reasonably priced and is always waiting for the fleet to come in. When Mack and the boys decide to throw a big party for Doc, a slew of events unfold, some good, some bad. While it is obvious that this book doesn¿t have much of a plot, there are several hidden meanings to some of the character¿s actions. For example, when Mack and the boys throw Doc, things go horribly wrong. Mack and the boys have the best intentions, but even with the best intentions, things have a tendency to go horribly wrong. A major point in the story is how one tiny thing can trigger another. When Doc¿s party fails, that sends the entire town into a kind of malaise. When Mack¿s dog gets deathly ill it is up to Doc has to cure him. Mack and the boys are so happy that it actually pulls the town out of its depression. Another point is that of redemption. After the party goes badly, Mack feels terribly guilty about it. He knows that Doc is displeased with him and he knows that he has to make up for it, so he throws him another party.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.