Cannery Row


John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Steinbeck delivers a fleeting but poetic snapshot of dawn in Cannery Row, depicting a scene in which two soldiers and two young women stumble drunkenly out into the pre-light of day and make their way to the beach, where they lie down and “smile at each other,” feeling as if they possess a “tired and peaceful and wonderful secret.” At one point, a “watchman” shouts at them saying that they can’t be on the beach, which is private, but the group pays no heed, and he eventually retreats, though they’re too contented to even notice.
Above all, this is a portrait of the kind of happiness that comes along with complete relaxation. These four partiers, Steinbeck intimates, only want to have a good time, and they refuse to let anyone (like the “watchman”) interfere with their ability to do so. In turn, Steinbeck shows readers once again that behavior that is often looked down on (like excessive drunkenness) isn’t always a sign of vice, especially when it leads to such unabashed and unharmful happiness.
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Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon