Study Guide

Minor Characters in Cannery Row

By John Steinbeck

Minor Characters

The Old Chinaman

The old Chinaman walks through Cannery Row in the early morning and early evening, freaking everyone out. There's something creepy about him—is he death? God? He's obviously not just a lonely old homeless guy who sleeps near the water at night. Right? Right??

Mr. and Mrs. Malloy

Mr. and Mrs. Malloy live in a boiler in the vacant lot. Mr. Malloy is a landlord: he rents out big rusty pipes on the lot to men who need a place to sleep. And with power comes … discontent. Mrs. Mallory was totally happy before they became property "owners," but now she starts wanting stuff like lamps and curtains. Even though their boiler doesn't have any windows.


Frankie is a mentally handicapped boy who Doc takes in. He's mistreated at home, so he obviously loves Doc. Frankie's problem is that he's can't do anything right, literally: when he sweeps the floor, it's still dirty when he's done. When he tries to carry a tray of beer out to Doc's guests, he spills it. When he wants give Doc a gift, he steals it, gets caught, and ends up in jail.

Dora's Girls (and Boys)

Twelve girls work at the Bear Flag Restaurant, but we only meet a few of them: Eva Flanegan, Phyllis Mae, Doris, Elsie Doublebottom. (No, seriously, did her mom actually name her that?) Because they're Dora's girls, they're all polite and discreet, not to mention handy with a bowl of soup.

Dora also employs two men: a bouncer and a cook. We don't learn much about the Greek cook or the current bouncer Alfred, but we do learn about Alfred's predecessor, William. William got depressed when Mack and the boys didn't want to hang out with him, so he eventually killed himself by sticking an ice pick in his heart.

Richard Frost

Richard Frost is the guy who finally gets an answer to everyone's question about the flagpole skater's bathroom situation: "he's got a can up there" (19.14). He only appears one other time in Cannery Row, drinking beer with Doc when Doc bets that Mack and the boys won't turn around when the Fourth of July parade goes by. (Doc is right, of course.)

Mary and Tom Talbot

Tom Talbot is a struggling writer. Is there any other kind? Mary is his wife, and she's always trying to lighten the mood by throwing parties, sometimes just tea parties for the stray cats who live in the back yard.

Horace Abbeville

Horace is a local dude who owes Lee Chong a lot of money. He pays his bill by signing over a warehouse, his only possession. After the deal is completed, Horace goes into the warehouse and shoots himself. Lee Chong feels awful and extends huge amounts of credit to Horace's two wives (!) and their children, while Horace's old warehouse becomes the Palace Flophouse and Grill.