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Cannery Row

Cannery Row

by John Steinbeck

Visions of Monterey Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream (0.1)

Steinbeck didn't mess around with the first line of the book. Instead of "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a run-down part of town near the sardine canning factories," he comes out of left field with a bunch of words that you wouldn't necessarily pick to describe a place. Like, none of words he chooses are concrete: you can't touch a poem, and you definitely can't lay your hands on a "quality of light."

Quote #2

Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories, and flophouses (0.1)

This is the second sentence of the book and the second one about what Cannery Row is. This time, Cannery Row is a collection of places and things, so we go from the abstract—qualities of light and so forth—straight to stuff. And still, no word on who actually lives and works here.

Quote #3

Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men," and he would have meant the same thing (0.1)

Steinbeck started with ideas about Cannery Row, moved on to places and things, and now in the third sentence he's filling the place with people. Does that mean that the people are less important than the idea of Cannery Row and the physical place? Or is it possible to separate them at all?

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