Cannery Row: Living Heaven on Earth
Cannery Row (1945), a novel written by John Steinbeck, Nobel Prize winner for Literature, is a book without much of a plot. Instead, it's a novel where setting, atmosphere and most importantly character, take precedence. Steinbeck creates a colorful array of characters struggling to understand their own unique places in the world.
The story is set in the early 20th century, immediately following the Depression and World War II. The characters live in Monterey, California amid the jumble of the sardine fisheries, the "Palace Flophouses", Lee Chong's grocery, Dora's whorehouse, and Doc's Biological Lab. Throughout the book, Steinbeck has the uncanny ability to combine his characters' everyday problems with the twist of a utopian style of living. The end result is a novel with a strange mixture of fantasy and reality, which insists that good fellowship and warm-heartedness are all that are needed to create a paradise anywhere on earth, even in the run-down Cannery Row.
In the beginning of the book, Steinbeck attempts to capture the feeling and life of Cannery Row by introducing his readers to a number of its' intriguing inhabitants. The audience is introduced to Mack and the boys, a group of unemployed yet resourceful men who inhabit a converted fishmeal shack on the edge of a vacant lot. They decide that they want to do something nice for the kind hearted Doc, who is the owner of a biological supply house. Doc is a gentle, intellectual man as well as a friend and caretaker to all, but he always seems haunted by a certain gloominess.
Among the other characters, there is Dora, the owner of the "clean, honest, old-fashioned sporting house" (13). Dora is a nice woman with blazing orange hair who always looks out for her girls. There is also Lee Chong, the grocer who manages to go through life saying all his words without using the letter "R".
Steinbeck frequently interrupts the flow of what could be considered the main story line, by throwing short segments into the writing thus introducing a new character (usually not directly connected to the primary story) or referencing some sort of cruel occurrence of real life. For example, in chapter twelve Steinbeck writes about the death of Josh...