Study Guide

Henri in Cannery Row

By John Steinbeck


With a name like "Henri," this guy is probably a French artiste who spends his time painting watercolors and eating baguettes, right?


Henri isn't French, not actually named Henri, and, if we can gather anything from the descriptions of his chicken-feather-and-nutshell art, not much of a painter.

What he is good at, though, is building boats. When Henri's not gluing shells to a canvas, he's building a really fantastic boat. One problem: he can't actually finish the boat, because he's afraid of water. Also, the boat's too small for any of his lady friends—and it doesn't have a toilet.


What we're picking up on here is that Henri is a guy who's stuck. He's afraid to put his boat in the water, but he also won't move off the boat and into a place where another person might want to live with him. When his girlfriends leave, Henri "mourn[s] formally for a while but actually [feels] a sense of relief. He [can] stretch out in his little cabin. He [can] eat what he [wants]" (22.6).

Even though he'd probably say he'd like to go out on the water with his boat or have a long-lasting relationship, he secretly feels differently. And he's arranged things so that nothing changes.