In English class, we were assigned a novel by our long haired easy going teacher. I wasn’t that crazy about reading the previous novel (which was Catcher in the
If literature was to be divided in to three parts there would be a section for classics (the really good), the well written (the pretty good), and the unique stories (the fairly good). There would be technically a fourth group known as the terrible, but I tend to think that all stories have their own unique parts to them no matter how terrible they are.
This book has me perplexed. I have to say it’s both a unique story and a classic at the same time. I have not read a Steinbeck novel before (though I have Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden on my To Read list), so I don’t know what they are normally like, but Cannery Row is most definitely unique. If you asked me halfway through reading what the point of the story was, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. The story depicts a lot of different people and their lives in little community in Cannery Row, Mantaray. Upon finishing reading this book, however, I realize that this book does have a point: to show life; its struggles and some of the people effected by all of it.
Cannery Row has a very unique plot. When you start reading it, you have no idea what direction Steinbeck is trying to go with the story. Steinbeck, however, was trying to show life, so his plot wasn’t as linear like most stories. There are several mini stories about several different people and all these stories were connected, much in same life is all connected. This is the story of Henri the painter, Lee Chong the grocer, Dora the whore house facilitator, Doc the marine biologist and Mack and his boys the bums. This is the story of Cannery Row. I have to quote the book because only Steinbeck himself can show this community’s variety.
“Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.”
See? That is a perfect example of how Steinbeck shows two sides of the same coin. He shows the good and evil of life and that why Steinbeck is designated as a classic writer.
I wasn’t crazy at the beginning when I was assigned this book, but this grew on me. Steinbeck is an interesting writer. Perhaps not my favorite style, but its still good!
Quote / Picture of Author
“How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise—the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream-be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are certain worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book—to open the page and let the stores crawl in by themselves.”
--John Steinbeck, Cannery Row pg3