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Cannery Row

Cannery Row


by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row Theme of Visions of Monterey

Steinbeck decided to name his book after where it takes place, so it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the setting is a pretty important part of the book. Unlike, say, Robocop, it's hard to imagine Cannery Row in some other place. If Doc and Mack the boys and everyone were in New York, how would anything that happens in the book be possible? There wouldn't be a Palace Flophouse available, Doc would never be able to find all the sea life he needs in the Hudson River and Lee Chong sure couldn't be the only grocer in town.

Questions About Visions of Monterey

  • Can Cannery Row really be a "poem" and a "stink" (0.1)? And how could it be both at once?
  • Are the folks on Cannery Row a part of the place, or do they just live there? Can you imagine them just picking up and leaving some day?
  • Is it important that the rest of Monterey is uphill from Cannery Row? Does that mean that the rest of Monterey (literally) looks down on it?
  • If you were to draw a map based on Steinbeck's descriptions of Cannery Row, what would be smack in the middle? Is that important?

Chew on This

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

The buildings in Cannery Row—the whorehouse, the Malloy's boiler, the Palace Flophouse—aren't just places; they're characters in the story.

Steinbeck's descriptions of Cannery Row emphasize its heterogeneity: it's a big mix of classes, races, ages, and sexes.

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