Cannery Row


John Steinbeck

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Cannery Row: Chapter 27 Summary & Analysis

Everyone in Cannery Row is excited about Doc’s surprise party. Because they think it’s his birthday, they brainstorm presents. For instance, the prostitutes at the Bear Flag decide to make him a silk quilt. Lee Chong prepares “a twenty-five-foot string of firecrackers and a big bag of China lily bulbs.” Sam Malloy, who is an avid collector, settles on giving Doc “the connecting rod and piston from a 1916 Chalmers.” As for Mack and “the boys,” they decide that Doc would like 25 cats, and so they devise a plan to catch them in a cage trap. Even Gay hears about the party from his place in the Salinas jail and makes a compromise with the sheriff so that he can attend.
The vast range of gifts that people prepare for Doc is an illustration of the different ways in which people express their appreciation for his friendship. As such, each gift represents the fact that kindness manifests itself in many different forms.
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Having a beer at a bar, Doc hears a drunk talking about the party. “His reaction to the idea was not simple,” Steinbeck writes. “He felt a great warmth that they should want to give him a party and at the same time he quaked inwardly remembering the last one they had given.” Nonetheless, he sets about preparing for the party by locking up his valuables. After all, he knows that the event will “cost him plenty.” He also goes to the butcher and orders steak and an assortment of other foods, in addition to whiskey, knowing that Mack and “the boys” won’t provide food or enough drink.
Although Doc intuits that his own surprise party is going to “cost him plenty,” he’s still willing to go along with the entire ordeal. In fact, he actively contributes to the party to make sure everyone will have a good time. In this way, readers see once again how committed Doc is to being kind to others.
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