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Cannery Row

Cannery Row


by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Steinbeck keeps breaking up the plot with stories that seem really irrelevant. The story of Monterey's "long and brilliant literary tradition," for instance, has nothing to do with the folks on Cannery Row and there's no reference to it anywhere else in the book. Assuming that Steinbeck wasn't just throwing in a few pages he had sitting in his desk drawer, what's the purpose of these stories?
  2. How would you describe Steinbeck's writing style?
  3. Is there a "bad guy" in Cannery Row? Who or what is working against the main characters?
  4. Why do you think that none of the main characters (apart maybe from Lee Chong, though he basically lives at the market) has a steady 9-to-5 job?
  5. Doc went to the University of Chicago, while the rest of Cannery Row went to the University of Hard Knocks. Does this make him different from everyone else? How?
  6. Are women important in Cannery Row? Why or why not?
  7. Steinbeck had his own logo, a winged pig he called "pigasus" and a motto, Ad Astra Per Alia Porci ("to the stars on pig's wings). Are the characters in Cannery Row trying to reach the stars? What about Steinbeck's writing?
  8. As you were reading, did you ever feel like moving to Cannery Row?
  9. Not everything goes well in Cannery Row. William and Horace Abbeville commit suicide, for one thing. Does that make Cannery Row a cruel place, or Steinbeck a heartless writer?
  10. What's going to happen next to Doc, Mack and the rest?

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