by John Steinbeck
Cannery Row Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Western Biological deals in strange and beautiful wares. It sells the lovely animals of the sea, the sponges, tunicates, anemones, the stars and buttlestars, and sun stars, the bivalves [. . .] You can order anything from Western Biological and sooner or later you will get it. (5.1)
Basically, Doc's lab is like the Walmart of sea life. Steinbeck gives us a huge catalogue of different animals that Doc sells. Are we supposed to be amazed by how many different creatures there are, or impressed that Doc can chase down all these things, or both?
Doc was collecting marine animals in the Great Tide Pool on the tip of the Peninsula. It is a fabulous place: when the tide is in, a wave-churned basin, creamy with foam, whipped by the combers that roll in from the whistling buoy on the reef. But when the tide goes out the little water world becomes quiet and lovely. The sea is very clear and the bottom becomes fantastic with hurrying, fighting, feeding, breeding animals (6.1)
Hurrying, fighting, feeding, and breeding: sounds like a pretty good life to us. The people on Cannery Row think so too. In fact, replace "little water world" with "Cannery Row" and you've pretty much got the novel's opening description. Hmm. We think Steinbeck might be trying to tell us something.
The anemones expand like soft and brilliant flowers, inviting any tired and perplexed animal to lie for a moment in their arms, and when some small crab or tide pool Johnnie accepts the green and purple invitation, the petals whip in, the stinging cells shoot tiny narcotic needles into the prey and it grows weak and perhaps sleepy while the searing caustic digestive acids melt its body down (6.1)
We'll never think of a day at the beach in the same way again. Trust Steinbeck to make us see the "searing caustic digestive acids" instead of letting us appreciate a pretty creature. (Also, can we agree that there's something weirdly gendered about this? That anemone sure sounds like a backstabbing woman to us.)