From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Cannery Row

Cannery Row


by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row Theme of Happiness

To paraphrase Tolstoy, happiness is usually pretty boring. That's why most novelists don't spend much time on it. It's way more interesting when characters are mooning around and miserable, which also explains the popularity of emo music. But it turns out, most of the folks in Cannery Row are actually happy. Is this why Cannery Row never became one of Steinbeck's heavy hitters?

Questions About Happiness

  • What's Cannery Row's recipe for happiness? Can we learn from the boys on Cannery Row, or is their happiness tied to their location?
  • It seems like money can really harsh a bum's mellow, though not having any doesn't seem to make anyone happy either. How do characters manage to have just enough?
  • What's the difference between having too much money and not quite enough? Does alcohol always make people happy in Cannery Row? What other ways do people on Cannery Row try to feel happy?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Being broke and hungry doesn't get Mack down, but feeling rejected by the rest of Cannery Row really ruins his mood. In this world, relationships with other people are more important than having enough to eat.

Doc is the only unhappy character in Cannery Row.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...