Cannery Row takes place in a small area that has sardine fisheries and is located in Monterey, California. The city Monterey is also known as Cannery Row. The novel Cannery Row is mainly about the people living in Cannery Row during the Great Depression and the affects of over-fishing which was one of the great biological disasters that wiped out the sardine harvest and focuses on Doc who is a dear friend of Steinbeck, the author of the novel. Because of Doc’s kindness and support, Mack and the boys want to do give a surprise party for Doc.
Doc is an owner of a biological supply house on the Row. Doc is a friend and caregiver to everyone. However, he suffers from loneliness. Mack and the boys plan to give Doc a party and they are full of energy and good spirits as they obtain the necessities for the party. Mack and the boys prepare the party in Doc’s lab one night while he is gone on a trip to collect items for his lab. However, the boys start the party premature while they wait for him to return. Unfortunately, when Doc comes back late from his trip, his lab is totally trashed.
After this incidence there was a bad sense of emotion that spread throughout the Row and lasted for a long time. It wasn’t long after the party that an influenza plague spread throughout Cannery Row and several other regrettable events occurred; however, later in the novel there was a turn around from all the bad events and the town began to heal. Again, Doc does something wonderful for Mack and the boys by curing their sick puppy. When Doc cured the puppy, Mack and the boys decided again to do something wonderful for Doc. They decided to throw Doc another party.
However, this time Doc got a change to attend the party. The boys made sure to carefully plan the party well. The party was a success and after the party, the story ends with Doc feeling great about life. During the Depression, an influenza epidemic hits the small Cannery Row community. Doc through his concern for people even though he is not a real doctor, but a scientist, treats many of the poor people and influences Dora, a woman who manages a whorehouse and her whores to become nurses to families that are in need of help.
Dora runs a whorehouse but she attempts to be “moral” by not selling hard liquor and by servicing her clients with a reasonable price and rate for the whores and she is very congenial to those who helped her during the Depression. For the people who survived the Depression, Mack was one of the leaders and a mentor to many of them who were in the same condition as he was having no family, no money, and no goals in life except for continually trying to find a way to get food to survive.
Sometimes Mack had to steal or lie to get help for himself and the people. Mack has some guilt about lying, stealing and being deceitful but usually when he is doing these “sins” he is doing it for a good purpose and usually he is able to plead his case when doing these actions because he is doing it for the common good. Hazel, who lives with Mack and the boys, is a very loyal person. The way he influences others is by being a good communicator. He listens to people effectively and remembers everything that was told to him.
The theme of the novel is more focused on the community itself and the results of individual behavior within the community because the environment is the main focus of the story. The environment is to a great extent dealing with the violence. In the first chapters, two people have already committed suicide. In addition, there are several other acts of aggression that occur when the Chinaman has an encounter with the little boys. The hidden cruelty in the narrative reveals the imperfection and evil nature of human beings.
However, in order to generate the greater good in people, there is a need for violence to be balanced which is described in chapter two. Within the marine community, the problem with over fishing of sardines required a balance just as a balance is needed within the human community regarding violence and moral behavior due to not having enough food supply. Due to the over fishing problem, a lack of fish resulted in the local people not having enough food which they relied on for nutrition and survival.
Within the marine community if there is not a balance of fish within the ocean, this result in an imbalanced production of various types of fish within the ocean resulting in the overproduction of some fish and the under production of certain other fish according to the food chain of sea creatures. In many cases, certain fish will become extinct due to a problem with over fishing. Over-fishing is really a main problem in the novel for the characters. Back in the post-depression, this really affected the people of Cannery County due to very low level success of reproduction of sardines.
Fish is one of the main resources of the ocean and the ocean must stay balanced with the right amount of fish in order to have a healthy ecosystem. Over fishing destroys the ocean’s ecosystem. However, there is no limitation to how much a person should fish because there is no ownership of the ocean’s resources. Therefore, the more people continue fishing; it results in a lower production of fish. This is what the author is trying to convey as he uses Cannery Row’s sardine fishery as an example. In regards to the human community, Cannery Row is disturbed by known and unknown instances of violence and cruelty.
In the novel, Doc finds a dead girl on the beach. Because of the depression, many people gave up and a retarded boy is sent to an institution for stealing a gift for a person he loves. The war only did so much for the people on the Cannery Row to end the Depression. Establishing a whorehouse, stealing, lying are all ways chosen by various people residing in Cannery Row to survive in a world with little resources during the Depression. The characters in Cannery Row show strength, courage, sadness and even happy moments even though they suffer through a Depression.
In spite of everything, they still manage to throw parties in the mist of their “storm. ” Doc was the main character who had the most character and integrity in spite of his own depression and loneliness. However, at the end, Doc looks at life in a whole new fashion and a new hope is created for in him after celebrating his party with Mack and the gang. Within the marine community, if the ecosystem is not completely destroyed, the ocean can be replenished and the balance restored within the ocean.
Like so, within the human community, because the people came together and learned to survive against the odds, their community was also moving toward restoration. In conclusion, Cannery Row is a story about the over-fishing problem in Monterey, California. The story speaks about how it affected the ocean’s ecosystem and the people. It also shows the sadness and happiness of the people in that small community during the Depression and how the characters will come together to survive.
However, they use stealing as a means to survive as well as working at a whorehouse, lying and various other dishonest means to survive during the Great Depression. Most of the characters were very good people just happened to be victims of a point in time of economic breakdown. John Steinbeck’s novel is scientifically and emotionally outstanding in the way he explicitly describe the terror in the community and the survival tactics used by the characters during the Depression.
Works Cited Steinbeck, John. Cannery Row. New York: The Viking Press, 1945
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