Steinbeck takes a moment to tell an odd tale about the death of the well-known humor writer. There is a French doctor who lives above a “gulch” and embalms dead people before they’re put into the ground. One morning, a man named Mr. Carriaga comes upon a boy and a dog. The boy is carrying “a liver” and the dog has “yards of intestine” in his mouth. Disconcerted by the fact that the liver doesn’t look like it belongs to an animal, Mr. Carriaga goes around asking if anyone died the night before, eventually learning that the humorist died in a nearby hotel. Going to the French doctor, Mr. Carriaga discovers that the doctor threw the writer’s “tripas” in the gulch. Upon hearing this, he makes the doctor gather “the parts,” wash them, and put them in a box that is buried with the humorist.
Of all the vignettes in Cannery Row, this one is perhaps the most difficult to place in the broader context of the text. Suffice it to say, the fact that the French doctor is forced to clean the humorist’s internal organs and put them in a box to be buried with him aligns with Steinbeck’s interest in examining the ways in which humans try—and sometimes fail—to treat each other with kindness and respect.