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Cannery Row

Cannery Row


by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row Chapter 1 Summary

  • Lee Chong's grocery has everything. Or at least everything you need "to live and be happy" (1.1), which is good enough for us.
  • He's a nice guy, but not a pushover. "Everyone in Cannery Row owed him money," but after a while, he'd stop extending credit (1.2).
  • One day, Lee Chong is standing at his usual spot at the counter thinking about something that happened that afternoon.
  • This guy Horace Abbeville comes in. He has a huge family and owes Lee Chong for groceries big time.
  • To pay him back, Horace offers Lee Chong his only thing of value, a beat-up old building filled with fish meal (mmmm!) on the other side of a vacant lot.
  • This looks like a really bad trade—what is Lee Chong going to do with a stinky old building that anyone could break into?—but he agrees to take it.
  • Horace leaves, goes into what used to be his building, and shoots himself.
  • Lee Chong feels awful and does everything he can to help Horace's wives (!) and children.
  • Now let's meet Mack. Mack lives in a rusty pipe in a vacant lot with some friends. And he wants some new digs.
  • In the nicest possible way, Mack basically threatens to destroy Lee Chong's new building unless he and his friends can move in there: "'Place might burn down if somebody don't keep an eye on it'" (1.21).
  • Mack and the boys call their new place the Palace Flophouse and Grill.The boys, uh, acquire paint and furniture to fix the place up.
  • Now that they've got this fine place to live. Mack decides it would be a good idea to do something nice for Doc.

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