Cannery Row


John Steinbeck

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Cannery Row can help.

Cannery Row: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

When Mack, Hazel, Eddie, Hughie, and Jones first move into the Palace Flophouse, they see it as “little more than shelter from the wind and the rain, as a place to go when everything else ha[s] closed or when their welcome [is] thin and sere with overuse.” Before long, though, a bout of heavy rain keeps them indoors for a long time, and they grow tired of the empty house. Shortly thereafter, Hughie drags in a cot, and the rest of the men grow jealous. From that point on, everyone starts finding and stealing furniture to decorate the place, and Mack and Hughie even buy a stove on credit and spend three days carrying it back to the Flophouse.
Even people like Mack and his friends, who live on the margins of society, want to create a sense of belonging for themselves. This is why they turn the Palace Flophouse into a true home, for they know that it’s important to feel comfortable in one’s own environment. Indeed, William’s suicide is a testament to this fact, since he killed himself because he didn’t feel a connection with his surroundings. Feeling at home in a community can stave off loneliness.
Loneliness, Melancholy, and Happiness Theme Icon
One day, Mack and “the boys” are lounging and drinking a strong alcoholic mixture that Eddie concocts whenever he fills in for the bartender at La Ida. On these nights, Eddie brings a jug and a funnel and pours whatever leftover booze people leave in their glasses into the jug, creating a strange “punch” that he shares with his friends. Now, as Mack and the gang sip the mixture, they talk about Doc. “That Doc is a hell of a nice fella,” Mack says. “He’ll give you a quarter any time. When I cut myself he put on a new bandage every day.” Going on, he says he’d like to do “something nice” for Doc, and the group eventually decides to throw him a party. Unfortunately, though, they don’t have the money to do this.
Again, readers see that kindness generally invites and creates more kindness. Because Doc is so empathetic and friendly, everyone who knows him wants to show him their appreciation. However, the true pity is that Mack and “the boys” live in a money-oriented society in which it’s difficult to express gratitude without buying gifts. Because of this, they must work extra hard to do “something nice” for Doc.
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon
Hughie tells “the boys” that he used to go to Carmel Valley to collect frogs for Doc, who paid him a nickel for each one. Hearing this, Mack realizes that they could fund the party this way, assuming that Doc needs frogs. “We could go up the Carmel River and have a little outing and we wouldn’t tell Doc what it was for and then we’d give him one hell of a party,” he says.
Mack is quite clever, as he finds ways to work around his and his friends’ poverty. However, it’s worth noting that this is a rather convoluted plan, as Doc will effectively be paying for his own party without knowing it. At the same time, though, he will ostensibly profit by gaining frogs (as long as he actually needs them). Regardless of the quality of Mack’s plan, though, there’s no denying that his intentions are pure, since he simply wants to throw Doc a party.
Kindness, Empathy, and Friendship Theme Icon