Essay Color Key

Free Essays
Unrated Essays
Better Essays
Stronger Essays
Powerful Essays
Term Papers
Research Papers




Cannery Row

Rate This Paper:

Length: 1339 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Red (FREE)      
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Pearl of Cannery Row

     A pearl is created when a tiny speck of intruding dust enters and irritates an oyster shell. The reaction of the oyster is to make a beautiful pearl out of the particle of dust. Some pearls are perfect and others are imperfect, but all are a unique and wondrous creation of nature. In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck imitates nature’s process with Cannery Row as the oyster and Mack as the speck of dust. Steinbeck shows Mack as the irritant which causes Cannery Row to veer from a precarious course and make a change for the better. In the end Mack creates a wonderful “pearl” for Cannery Row — the quality of unity — and the reader learns that sometimes the best results come from seemingly meaningless occurrences.
      Mack is in the least a large source of irritation and at the most worthless to the residents of Cannery Row. Steinbeck introduces him as “... the elder, leader, mentor and to a small extent, the exploiter of a little group of men who had in common no families, no money and no ambitions beyond food, drink and contentment” (9). His effect upon the town, while often anonymous, is clearly sensed: “A hardware store supplied a can of red paint not reluctantly because it never knew about it...” (12). Mack appears when he needs something and disappears when pay-up time comes around. To Cannery Row, “Mack [and the boys] avoid the trap, walk around the poison, step over the noose while a generation of trapped, poisoned and trussed-up men scream at them and call them no-goods, come-to-bad-ends, blots-on-the-town, thieves, rascals, bums” (15). Because Mack does not fit society’s traditional standards of living, the town also assumes that his character does not measure up either. He isn’t seen for what he really is — a man with a sweet soul who simply is not driven by worldly desires — instead, people judge him against others and by their own expectations of a man.
     Mack lacks ambition but not a good heart. His only intentions are for survival, never for the purpose of inflicting pain or problem on others: “In the world ruled by tigers with ulcers, rutted by strictured bulls, scavenged by blind jackals, Mack [and the boys] dine delicately with the tigers, fondle the frantic heifers, and wrap up the crumbs to feed the sea gulls of Cannery Row” (15). He calmly accepts what his life presents him with, making palaces out of shacks instead of trying to attain a higher position. Mack’s good-natured side can be seen in his desire to do something nice for the friendly and dependable marine biologist Doc. For Cannery Row, the effect is for Mack to actually develop a goal — throwing a party for Doc. As soon as this goal is realized, Mack goes to work. He manipulates everyone, including Doc himself, so his goal can be attained; from Lee Chong, the grocery store owner: “Will you let us take your old truck up to Carmel Valley for frogs for Doc—for good old Doc?” (55) to the trusting captain who ends up willingly helping Mack: “You know, I’ve got a pond up by the house that’s so full of frogs, I can’t sleep nights . . . I’d be glad to get rid of them” (83), and back to Lee Chong again. Ironically, Mack could just as easily use his persuasive powers strictly for personal gain, but the thought never enters his mind.
     We see the cultivation of the pearl taking place with the events leading up to the botched first party and with the disaster itself. Mack first stirs up the town in his campaign to acquire money and materials for the party. Everything is smooth until the irritation begins: Mack makes the mistake of saying “just a few sips won’t hurt” too many times: with the captain “Maybe a short one . . . wouldn’t it be easier to pour out some in a pitcher?” (92), in waiting for Doc: “They [Mack and the boys] had a couple more drinks, just to savor the plan” (121) and while decorating: “They [Mack and the boys] had finished the whiskey by now and they really felt in a party mood” (124). Just as the speck of dust causes a domino effect when the oyster feels the irritation, Mack’s mistake causes a domino effect as well — for the party itself and for Cannery Row. The deterioration of the plan starts with the alcohol, and then selfishness takes over when Mack and the boys become quickly addicted to trading frogs for goods at Lee Chong’s: “The poison of greed was already creeping into the innocent and laudable mercantile agreement” (119). This leads to an overabundance of decorations and unbridled merriment at Doc’s party. Doc, finding himself left to pick up the pieces of the disaster, uncharacteristically loses control and flies into a rage: “Doc hit him [Mack] again, a cold calculating punch in the mouth” (130). While the aftermath directly affects the guilty: “Mack and the boys were under a cloud and they knew it and they knew they deserved it. They had become social outcasts. All their good intentions were forgotten now” (140), the negative repercussions are not limited to them. Around Cannery Row, the effect continues and a time of unhappy restlessness follows — Dora must close the Bear Flag for longer than usual, Henri the painter is traumatized by a terrible vision, the Malloys fight, a storm attacks the coast and Darling, the heart and soul of the Palace Flophouse, gets sick. Not until Darling gets well, after Mack and the boys have strived to help her, does the town have the ability to break the depression.
     The final touches — the beautiful and strong outer shells of the pearl — are created when Mack and the boys once again introduce the concept of a party for Doc to the town: “They [Mack and the boys] sat in the Palace Flophouse and they were the stone dropped in the pool, the impulse which sent ripples to all of Cannery Row and beyond ...” (166). Mack makes use of the lesson he learned from the earlier fiasco and really concentrates on the party, forgetting about what brief benefits could be attained on the way. This time around, the entire town gets involved: “Now a gladness began to penetrate into the Row and spread out from there” (157), and immediately feels the positive effects. Everyone benefits from their involvement in the conspiracy: Dora and the girls of the bordello have a project in creating the blanket; the Malloys concentrate on finding gifts for Doc and no longer fight; Lee Chong gets in the spirit by helping with decorations; and Mack and the boys once again have a goal.
     The pearl — the unity of Cannery Row — is revealed with the presentation of the party. For once, the citizens of Cannery Row have worked together towards a common goal and are successful: “You could hear the roar of the party from end to end on Cannery Row” (189). While every night and day thereafter cannot be as unified as the night of the party, Cannery Row has been changed for the better: “Certainly all of Cannery Row and probably all of Monterey felt that a change had come” (156). Strong bonds have been formed and happy memories have been created among the townspeople. A new level of understanding exists — work acquaintances and neighbors have become more significant — they have become friends.
     Mack never intended to be the speck of dust in the oyster. He innocently followed his heart, which is what lead him to be the irritant and the changing factor for Cannery Row. Directly and indirectly, from his actions, the pearl is created. No one could have speculated that Mack, the seemingly invaluable transient, would bring unity and happiness to Cannery Row. Steinbeck clearly shows the reader a parallel: just as nature transforms tiny specks of dust into pearls, insignificant matters and people are cultivated into miracles.

     Work Cited
Steinbeck. John. Cannery Row. New York: Penguin Books, 1992
     

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Cannery Row." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Dec 2014
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=57091>.




Related Searches





Important Note: If you'd like to save a copy of the paper on your computer, you can COPY and PASTE it into your word processor. Please, follow these steps to do that in Windows:

1. Select the text of the paper with the mouse and press Ctrl+C.
2. Open your word processor and press Ctrl+V.

Company's Liability

123HelpMe.com (the "Web Site") is produced by the "Company". The contents of this Web Site, such as text, graphics, images, audio, video and all other material ("Material"), are protected by copyright under both United States and foreign laws. The Company makes no representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the Material or about the results to be obtained from using the Material. You expressly agree that any use of the Material is entirely at your own risk. Most of the Material on the Web Site is provided and maintained by third parties. This third party Material may not be screened by the Company prior to its inclusion on the Web Site. You expressly agree that the Company is not liable or responsible for any defamatory, offensive, or illegal conduct of other subscribers or third parties.

The Materials are provided on an as-is basis without warranty express or implied. The Company and its suppliers and affiliates disclaim all warranties, including the warranty of non-infringement of proprietary or third party rights, and the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The Company and its suppliers make no warranties as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the material, services, text, graphics and links.

For a complete statement of the Terms of Service, please see our website. By obtaining these materials you agree to abide by the terms herein, by our Terms of Service as posted on the website and any and all alterations, revisions and amendments thereto.



Return to 123HelpMe.com

Copyright © 2000-2014 123HelpMe.com. All rights reserved. Terms of Service