** spoiler alert **
In sharp contrast to “Moll Flanders,’ which I read at the same time as this book and was so heavy on plot, Cannery Row is a book heavy on characters and light on plot. In the hands of a lesser author, I think this book would have been dreadful, but there is something about Steinbeck’s simple style and the unique dialogue of his characters that really makes his novel shine.
Cannery Row sets forth the adventures of Mack and his cohorts, a group of good-old boys who live in a converted fish0meal shack on the aforementioned Cannery Row. Everybody on the Row likes Doc, a friend to all who runs a biological supply store. Mack and his buddies try to throw Doc a party, but they fail miserably. They try again and with the help of the local grocer and the proprietor of the house of ill repute, this time the party is a smashing success.
As mentioned above, the book is mainly about the residents of Cannery Row and the places they inhabit. I am tempted to call Cannery Row a run-down place, but I don’t know if that is exactly accurate. Much like the book itself, I can imagine that Cannery Row is a bit what you make it. A lot of the same themes in this book that we see elsewhere in Steinbeck with the need for people for work together, people aren’t always what they seem, the Great Depression, etc., but the book really is quite good. The reason though why it is good is because of Steinbeck, Steinbeck knows what he is doing with his characters. Clearly not his masterpiece, this is still a very worthwhile read.