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Themes

Cannery Row is home to all the characters in the book. Within it, they've each got their own more-or-less private home. Some are super private, like Henri's, and some are open to everyone, like Doc's. When you're trying to get a handle on a character, it helps to see how they live. Steinbeck spends a lot of time telling us about different homes and drawing conclusions from them. Mack and the boys manage to turn a cold, smelly building into a warm, friendly home. Other homes are fussy and unwelcoming, like the home the Captain's wife has made. One thing's for sure: in Cannery Row, home is where the heart—and the whiskey—is.

Questions About Home

  • What makes a good home in Cannery Row? Why do people choose to live where they live?
  • Do fat pads like the Palace always mean the people who live there are happy? Which homes in Cannery Row seem happy, and which ones seem unhappy?
  • Why doesn't Henri add an addition to his boat so his lady friends would be more comfortable? Why doesn't Doc lock his door once in a while? Are there moments when people's homes don't seem to match up with their personalities?

Chew on This

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

The best homes in Cannery Row are improvised. The Malloys have a lovely home in a boiler, while Mack and the boys have turned an old fish meal warehouse into a sweet crib.

You can tell a lot about Doc from looking at his home. First, it's not a home at all, but a lab. (Of death.) Second, his bedroom isn't private at all. He's a guy who lives and breathes his job, but still really needs other people.

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