The Definition of Success: Cannery Row
by John Steinbeck
Many different types of people live in the seaside town that is Cannery Row. Each person's lifestyle differences and backgrounds influence their ideas and versions of success. Steinbeck introduces a variety of main characters in this book and shows how hard they work to keep up with what they feel is a successful life, even though some characters are more prosperous than others. The one thing that connects all of the inhabitants of Cannery Row is their ability to depend on those around them. They have many neighbors willing to loan money, or to reach out in a tough situation.
The first man we meet in this book is Lee Chong. He is the owner and operator of the local grocery store. Chong is a stubborn man that cherishes the value of a dollar and a hard day's work. He is also the type of man that will not discount an item if his life depended on it, but he will still lend a helping hand every now and then. “Over the course of the years everyone in Cannery Row owed him money,” writes Steinbeck. He loans money to all of these people because in such a small town, he knows they would rather pay him back for all they owe rather than travel up the hill a few miles. Lee Chong just so happens to measure his schievements on money alone. Somewhere along the line he finds a way to risk his own profit to help a friend in need with groceries or money.
A man that constantly gets money and food from Lee Chong is Mack. He and they boys, Hazel, Eddie, Hughie, and Jones start to rent a building from Chong despite the fact that both parties are aware that Mack and the boys have no source of income. They manage to find a way to pay the five dollars a month through favors, short-term jobs, and sometimes theft. They are the type of people that can get a person to do anything just by twisting words and convincing them that it's the right thing to do. This is how Mack and the boys get around. They were homeless, but they found homes. They didn't have any money, but managed to find food. This lifestyle is just what they wanted and needed. In their minds no commitments means no worries.
Most of the time these men went without jobs, but they are forced to find work occasionally to pay off loans. Eddie works bartending at a place called, La Ida when the regular bartender is sick. When this rare occurrence happens, he will bring a jug in to work and fill it with all the booze he can. The boys would enjoy it for the next few days and commemmorate their achievements. This was what the boys lived for. Sure, it was illegal, and it wasn't much to be proud of, but it made them happy. As long as they were alive and well, then that was good enough. If life brought them good fortune, they were very grateful. They didn't feel like they deserved any more.
The one man Mack and the boys thought deserved more than anyone else was Doc. Doc is their everything. Not just to the boys, to the whole town. He fixed what needed fixing,gave food to the hungry, and helped with people's health in any way that we could. Throughout Cannery Row, Mack is trying to find out how to pay back Doc for all he has done. The whole town admires Doc, so they support Mack in his efforts.
Doc is quite fond of knowledge and discovery. James Hart describes him as “the sympathetic, wise, lonely owner of the Western Biological Laboratory.” His work consists of collecting specimens for study and experiments in his lab. He is a marine biologist. He likes to study life and nature quite in-depth. He doesn't really have a family, so he doesn't mind supporting his friends and neighbors from time to time. He is also a very lonely man. Howard Levant also describes Doc's relationships by saying, “He regards people and the specimens he collects from the tide pool with the same cool, warm eye.” He would rather watch Mack and the boys from his labaratory window,...
Cited: Steinbeck, John. Cannery Row. New York: Penguin, 1994.
Levant, Howard. The Novels of John Steinbeck: A Critical Study. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1983.
Nelson, Maryse. “The Definition of Success.” The United Haitians Home Page. June 2008. UH. 6 August 2008
"Cannery Row" The Oxford Companion to American Literature. James D. Hart, ed., rev. Phillip W. Leininger. Oxford University Press 1995. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mentor Public Library : OH0142. 5 August 2008
Please join StudyMode to read the full document